Self-righteous band students assail new director

Students at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., have caused the publication of several criticisms about their new band director in a newspaper, the Marietta Daily Journal, here.

“I’m sure she would be a good director for a band that doesn’t want to be that good, but that’s not the case at Lassiter,” Brittany Pietsch, a senior flutist, was quoted as saying. “We need a new director ASAP. I know I speak for a lot of the kids in the bands. A lot of people would refuse to sit in her class for another semester.”

Well, Ms Pietsch, if they refuse to sit in her class for another semester, that suits the rest of us just fine. Or, they could receive a failing grade, I suppose. Their choice.

Senior trumpet player Jacob Greifinger described the director’s incompetence by saying, “It’s like having a calculus teacher that doesn’t know half of the curriculum teaching us for the Advanced Placement test.”

“She can’t help us because she doesn’t know,” the paper quoted Tyler Boone, senior first-chair trumpet player, as saying. In describing one of the pillars of the band program (“Spirit Plus System Equals Success”), this trumpet player was quoted as saying he felt both the system and the spirit were broken.

Mr Boone’s father, Bruce Boone, was quoted as saying, “She was hired under suspicious circumstances,” in a section of the article entitled “Suspected nepotism.”

Grand Pause … so we can insert a few facts here

The school district has refused to comment on the matter. I would advise them to keep their mouths shut about this and hire a lawyer to press charges for libel. The district has been accused of some inexcusable practices, and if true, the district could face serious penalties. It has been charged with a breach of the public trust in a newspaper in general circulation in the vicinity of its schools. That’s potentially libelous if there was nothing improper about the district’s hiring practices.

Note to the Marietta Daily Journal: You have received a tip about improper hiring practices in a public school district. That would be a scoop, and you should send your best investigative reporter to check out the accusations. If you find them true, you have an incredible story. If you find them false, you should issue a retraction to protect your paper.

The band director whose competence is being challenged is Ginny Markham. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, where she served the Marching Redcoats as drum major for two years, and her master’s degree in music education from the University of Illinois, Urbana, which is no cheesy outfit, let me tell you.

For those of you who don’t know anything about marching band, which is apparently a small number of students at Lassiter who enjoy attacking the professionalism and teaching ability of a band director in a newspaper, the university from which Ms Markham received her master’s degree is the same university where, in 1907 at a football game between the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, a marching band first performed in formation during halftime. Memorial Stadium is hallowed ground when it comes to music, unlike Lassiter, which has been named Grand National Champion (well, out of about 90 competing bands that could afford the hundreds in entry fees and a few nights for a few hundred people in Indianapolis) once, back in 2002.

Before coming to Lassiter as director last spring, following the retirement of Alfred Watkins, who had been at Lassiter for 30+ years, she served students at Allatoona and Kell high schools, also in Georgia. She has directed the marching band for one season, and such terrible judgments are being published about her. I cannot vouch for her quality as a teacher or band director, but I can vouch for her credentials. If the University of Illinois gave her a master’s degree in music education, she seems well suited to teach a group of know-it-all, we-need-a-reporter high school kids how to learn a lot in a band program. Let’s start with a lesson about respect.

Note to the Bands of America organization: Unless you are desperate for the entry fee from Lassiter, the band should be barred from participation in any BOA event as a result of the disrespect shown to educators and to music education in general. Any other action would imply your endorsement of potentially libelous comments against the public schools.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.