Speer is ‘teacher feature’ for Texas Music Educators Conference

David Speer, assistant band director and percussion coordinator at Frenship High School and Terra Vista Middle School, is the featured teacher on the Texas Music Educators Conference Web site.

Speer has been a member of TMEC since he was in college at the University of Texas at Austin, and he also met his wife there. TMEC is the Texas branch of a national organization called the Music Educators National Conference. He said he’s always had a love for music and was exposed to playing music because his mother played piano.

He knew he wanted to be a music teacher by his junior year of high school and is one of several band directors at FHS, but specializes in percussion. Speer writes all of the drum music as well as whatever other composing he can do.

“I really like writing music and having it performed by the kids I’m teaching,” said Speer. “It really helps me. I know the piece better when I’ve written it, so I really enjoy doing that. It helps me develop the other half of my musician side because there is a composing and performing aspect.”

As a band director, Speers has enough knowledge to teach students how to play every instrument in the band. He said half of the battle of being able to teach all instruments is knowing how to read sheet music properly.

Speer’s proudest accomplishment as a music educator is seeing his students win awards and be recognized for their individual merits. He said one of the hardest parts of being a band director is keeping students interested and practicing, but he’s fortunate to be in a team-teaching atmosphere because they have multiple band directors.

“I think the most important thing we do — really is not so much teaching music — but making them enjoy being in that room for 75 minutes to an hour or two hours or whatever. And making sure they leave the class with a smile on their face is what, at the end of the day, makes them sign up for the class next year,” he said.

He said he strives to have a good relationship with his students and part of his job is to recruit and retain band students. FHS’s band will be the largest it’s been with around 250 students when school starts.

It can be difficult to keep students in band because they often don’t understand they have to practice at home, too. Speer said students lose interest if they don’t develop their skills on an instrument and if other students begin to pass them. To avoid that problem Speer said he works to match students with the proper instrument.

“You can kind of tell early on if a kid can make a sound on this one and he can’t on this one, then there is no reason to put a kid on an instrument that they can’t make a sound on — it doesn’t make sense,” said Speer. “Unless the kid really wants to do it, it’s possible. But we try to tell the kids that if they’re not going to be successful at it, they’re not going to like it so they’re not going to have fun.”

Speer just finished his fifth year teaching at FHS and said he feels like the West Texas atmosphere fits him better than Austin, his hometown. He has a 7-month-old son and is active at his church, Oakwood Methodist. He sometimes teaches Sunday school and preaches at his church and said that may be something he gets more involved in, in the future. He also used to do talk-radio in Austin and talked about topics like politics and religion.

He is a recent entrepreneur and started a company called Flipside Publications where he sells his original, composed sheet music via his Web site. There are MP3s available on the site to hear some of his music, but it’s mostly for music education. People can purchase his sheet music and receive it on a PDF within 24 hours. Speer can even write custom music for people.

Even though there tends to be a quick turnover for teachers, especially band directors, Speer said he still enjoys his job and has no plans on a career change anytime soon. He likes the comaraderie between staff members at FHS.

“I think the best way of illustrating how much better the FHS band department is than other schools is just the way the staff communicates with one another and get along because other districts tend to have rivalries in their systems, but that isn’t how it’s done here,” said Speer.

Tom SoRelle, head band director at FHS, said he thinks Speer is doing a great job directing his students.

“David Speer is an excellent teacher,” said SoRelle. “He’s very smart and very good at working with students and knows what he’s doing.”

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