This week, Kathryn and Theresa talked to Kevin Feher, a high school band director in Southeast Pennsylvania. After graduating from Duquesne University with a degree in music education, Kevin taught in a variety of settings before joining the music department at Penn Ridge High School, where he has been for the last seven years. In this interview, Kevin talks about how he incorporates mission statements in his high school band program to give students ownership.
Introducing a Mission Statement
When Kevin was hired at Penn Ridge High School, he recognized the sense of legacy that follows a high school band program. It was important for him to build a community where he and the students were working towards the same goal. To accomplish this, Kevin began with the marching band, inviting the student leaders and any other interested students to have a conversation about their ensemble. The first question he asked was, “What does it mean to be a Marching Ram?” The conversation started slowly, but in time, students began sharing their ideas. These ideas turned into belief statements, describing what the group completes and achieves. Eventually, they narrowed it down to three phrases that concisely describe what it is to be a Marching Ram.
A Statement of Identify
Throughout the interview, Kevin talks about how the mission statement has become a statement of identity for the students and how, over the years, student buy-in has increased. Other topics Kevin shares include:
- The motto of the year and how that fits with their mission statement.
- The book, You Win in the Locker Room First, by Jon Gordon, and how that helps shape the ensemble’s goal setting practices.
- How mascots and symbols help build community and student ownership, including coffee beans and army men.
- Kevin’s advice to teachers who want to incorporate a mission statement in their music program and the importance of being the last one in the room to talk. The moment the teacher speaks, most times, they (the students) will stop having opinions.
- How to build community and give students ownership without sacrificing quality.
They need to learn how to be empathetic and compassionate towards each other, and to pick each other up, and also know that if you need to get picked up, there’s somewhere and someone you can go to to do it.
Be sure to check out the full interview to hear more about how Kevin uses mission statements, goal setting, and symbols to empower his students. Kevin’s stories about how he has built relationships with students are inspiring and exciting. You’re sure to find ideas that will benefit your program as well.
To learn more and connect with Kevin, check out these resources:
Interested in learning more about giving students a voice? Check out these interviews:
- A Performance Planned By Students
- Creating a Student-Centered Choral Program
- Project Based Learning in Music Classes
Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast platform, or here on Anchor!