Young boys singing

This Is Music Education


Educator Spotlights

Music is an essential part of a complete education. Every day thousands of music educators are providing students learning opportunities that extend into the rest of their lives. ILMEA is celebrating this professional community with a new series of Educator Spotlights. Peer-nominated, exemplary educators provide the voice of experience and practical knowledge in this project. Check back each week for a new interview! 

Jim Childers, Marion Jr. High School,

ILMEA District 6



What do you teach?

I teach all band activities for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. The band program at Marion Jr. High usually has 170-200 students involved in 3 different concert bands. All 6th graders constitute one of the concert bands. 7th and 8th graders are auditioned and placed in either the Wind Ensemble, which plays grade 3-4 literature; or they are placed in the Cadet Band, which plays grade 1.5-3 literature. All 7th and 8th graders come together to form a Pep Band for home basketball games. The Jazz Band meets off of school time. 6-8 graders are all eligible to audition for Jazz Band, ILMEA festivals, as well as solo contest.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

I am fortunate that I have a lot of kids that are willing to work hard. The awards we have won at concert and jazz festivals are great, but I love working and progressing with kids. Listening to great music is motivating. When I work with students and we hear something that was horrible become something that has clarity and expression; that floats my boat. 

What makes the music program at Marion Jr. High unique?

We are in a part of the state that is looked at as a small fish in the big music pond in our state. The band program from Marion Jr. High has had the largest number of students at the ILMEA District Festival for several years. We have traveled to and won numerous concert and jazz festivals from Chicago to Atlanta. We have been invited to the "SuperState Festival" at the University of Illinois for 6 consecutive years. We have done all of this without the same amenities that other schools in our state enjoy. 

What do students get from the music program that they do not get anywhere else in school?

I love hearing about all of the benefits to the brain's development, and sustained health as one ages. There are benefits in areas like self-esteem and work ethics that are wonderful but not necessarily unique to music. Music brings students from all social groups in a school together to work on a common goal. Similarly, music brings multiple regions of the brain together to accomplish something that is physical and aesthetic. 

What are the top five reasons students are involved in music at Marion Jr. High?

Music in our school is respected by students and staff. 
Music in our school has been successful.
Music in our school is viewed by students as a fun activity as well.
Students enjoy working with the different music teachers in our school.
The administration has established a schedule that helps retain music students.

How has ILMEA involvement benefitted the educators, students and music education at Marion Jr. High?

It has provided support, motivation and legitimacy to what we do. ILMEA is essential to the survival of music in our schools.

What are your educational goals for this year?

Each year my goal is to make students more expressive players. There are many physical skills and concepts to develop to do that. Of course the 6th Grade Band will not be at the same performance level as the Wind Ensemble at the end of the year, but my goal is to move each student forward. Within those broad goals there are sub-goals pertaining to mastering scales, labeling rhythms, and learning musical terms, etc.

How do you incorporate assessment and standards-based learning in your music curriculum, and how does it benefit your students?

The band program at Marion Jr. High does more than just prepare music for concerts.  We do multiple assessments each quarter as well as incorporate through discussions many higher order skills.  I notice the benefits of such activities when students critique rehearsals of listening excerpts.  It is amazing how concepts broaden and listening skills improve from 6th to 8th grade.

Please share something with new teachers that you have found helpful in your life.

Work hard. You can always be proud of that. Be honest with students. It is good to be a positive person, but sometimes kids are motivated by your frustration. Have more than just music in your life. Life is richer when you enjoy several activities.

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