By Leeanne Seaver
Tell us the backstory: where are you from—geographically and musically—and how did you come to Vicksburg?
I grew up in Eaton Rapids and had wonderful opportunities both in athletics as well as music. My parents Doug & Carolyn still live there, and my older sister lives nearby.
Late in my junior year of high school, I realized I wanted to be a band director. Those thoughts solidified in my senior year when I had many opportunities to be in front of ensembles as well as to teach younger students. The trumpet is my primary instrument, but I had to learn all the instruments so I could teach them. I have a fondness for the French Horn, but I like everything. My personal taste in music is so eclectic…I’m all over the place. The last CDs I purchased were a contemporary Christian album and Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits.
Seven years ago, an invitation brought me to Vicksburg High School. I had no intention of looking for a new job as I was fairly pleased with my job situation at the time. I had planned a marching show for another band, but was ready for band camp only a week after I accepted the Vicksburg job. I knew the program had a strong reputation, but also knew that I could bring my own passion and energy to it. So I became part of the Big Red Machine, along with my wife Jeri, and our kids, Camryn and Parker.
Can you share your teaching philosophy?
I hope to motivate students to be lifelong participants in music endeavors—whether it’s performing or just simply an appreciation for the performing world and the power of music. I have always felt that if I am able to be a motivator of students, they will achieve amazing things. It’s always rewarding as a teacher to watch students work individually and as a group to accomplish incredible things both musically and socially. Giving students opportunities to shine in band even if they struggle in other academic settings helps them gain self-confidence. They know they can work through something difficult. And in this band, there’s a lot of motivation to get it right; the kids help each other out. Students with enough positive peer pressure will work hard to never let their peers down.
What’s special about Vicksburg’s band program?
The Big Red Machine is very much a family; we take care of each other and everybody belongs. We experience many things outside of rehearsals and performances that create that atmosphere. Playing at the funeral of our student Megan Holt was one of those experiences. That was an incredibly bonding moment for these students, full of so many emotions that are rarely experienced by most kids their age.
How does the creative process work when you’re developing a half-time show?
First, I choose a theme with our instrumentation and abilities in mind. I want to create a show full of good tunes, both educationally relevant and enjoyable to perform. It needs to flow together to provide a wonderful product for our fans as well as the judges who will be looking further in depth to the process and construction of the show. This year’s theme was deeply influenced by some personal factors that were happening in my life at the time which led me to write…
“Amongst the calamity and chaos of life there are moments where all is well with your soul. In those moments you are able to experience unadulterated, unabashed JOY.”
Those two sentences introduce the theme of our show this year. They came to me during one of those sleepless nights when I had a lot weighing on my mind. My wife and I watched our best friends go through a divorce that tore us apart. We were able to find the moments of JOY with our children and also with our friends in spite of the chaos. Music can help us recover those moments in our own lives and cherish those feelings. Music has the ability to express things that words can’t say.