The future of music education at East High


Ryleigh Hayworth

Band director Joseph Thering conducting the East band in preparations for their concert.

Ryleigh Hayworth, Editor-in-Chief

Rehearsals. Sheet music. White tops and black bottoms. Warmups. Setting the stage. The quiet anticipation among student musicians before a concert. As the 2020-2021 school year wraps up, band director Mr. Thering and choir director Ms. Squires will take their final bow as music educators at East High School. 

“I think in many ways my thoughts are similar to what the seniors are thinking, which is ‘I didn’t know that this part of my life or career would end the way that I did,’” band director Joseph Thering said. 

The 2020-2021 school year brought a lot of changes, and it will end with more changes to come. Thering has taught at East for the last 8 years. Next year he will teach band and orchestra at Hiatt Middle School.

“8 years. As much as we’ve had some great musical moments, there is a trend, and I like watching people change and develop. I have had this amazing privilege in playing some kind of a role in everybody’s opportunities to change and develop. My proudest thing is watching people come in confused about identity, confused about values, shift into people who are certain about who they are and what they want to be,” Thering said.

Students love Thering for his kind personality and willingness to listen. 

“Thank you Thering for everything, for being there for me through the year, and changing my perspective of band to something positive instead of negative. You changed how I feel about playing music again. You have made my high school experience so much fun and exciting, you will be missed,” junior band student Sierra Pilate said. 

Thering’s advice for future band students: be willing to change. 

“Darwin is quoted as saying ‘the survival of the fittest’ in some fashion or another and we always think of that as the strongest or the fastest or the most athletic or the most dominant, but the fittest means most appropriate, and the most appropriate for survival’s sake is adaptation. I think we’ve all learned that the speed of adaptation is the new adaption, it’s not whether or not you can adapt, it’s how fast you can adapt and the faster you can do it the more likely you are to survive, so I just encourage everyone to be prepared to change and be prepared to do it fast,” Thering said. 

Change can be scary, but it is what’s in store for both teacher and student. Thering will continue to be involved in education, either as a music teacher or in leadership. As for music at East High School, band and choir will be facing a big change: sharing a director. 

“I’m not really happy about it, but it’s someone new which means we can grow from it. I’m excited but nervous. With the time being split between band and choir, we’re gonna have to find time to do stuff for band and avoid piling on,” Pilate said. 

Finding the balance between band and choir seems like a daunting task, and it won’t happen without sacrifices. Show choir, hand bells, and jazz band are all expected not to happen for the 2021-2022 school year. 

“I don’t know how they can do it. I don’t know how they could even do band and choir together, it’s so much. Solo contests when you have both [band and choir], large group contest when you have both, and 2 booster groups, I mean, I don’t think anyone thinks about that,” choir director Traci Squires said. 

From early morning marching band rehearsal to long after-school musical practices and Saturdays booked with contests, either jazz band or show choir, it is clear that music education is not contained within the school day. Finding the balance is key. 

After 17 years at East High School, Squires is retiring. She is sad to be leaving but is looking forward to spending more time with her grandsons. She also plans to sub.

“The musicals would be the number one thing I will miss. I’ll miss working with Mr. Thering, Mrs. Luft, and Mr. Allan,” choir director Traci Squires said. 

Through all of her years of teaching, RENT was her favorite musical produced; she loves the music and the message. Her favorite memories include fall musicals and group trips. Her daughter also attended East and was involved in choir and theatre. 

“I think about all the trips we went to, New York, Washington DC, Orlando like three times, those were great memories,” Squires said. 

Squires’ advice for future choir kids is to cherish your time in choir.

“Stay enthused. Remember this is your at-school family, your safe place. Make the most out of your time here,” Squires said. 

The future of music education at East is unpredictable, but for all band and choir students past present and future, know that change is healthy and necessary. 

“We’re a giant family and we’re always gonna be here for each other, even with a new director,” Pilate said.