Many people enjoy watching high school bands perform in parades, at half-time during a football game, or at a concert. These performances require hard work, dedication, and a great band director. Muscatine High School’s Jeffery Heid is one of those great band directors.
Heid grew up in Cascade, Iowa, and graduated high school in 1992. He attended the University of Iowa from 1992 to 1998 and earned a Bachelor of Music degree in trombone performance with certification to teach. He taught at Iowa Valley High School in Marengo, Iowa, from 1998-2001 before accepting the position of head director at MHS in 2001. Since joining the MHS family, he earned his Master of Music Education Degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2016.
Heid has loved band since high school. “When I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a band director more than anything else. I enjoyed all aspects of the program I was in, and greatly admired and valued my teacher, Pam Houser. I wanted to do something that would allow me to have experiences and create experiences for people the same way she did for our band and myself.”
Most schools do not require band members to also participate in marching band, but some do. Muscatine’s marching band is voluntary. Heid felt requiring students to participate in marching band was discouraging talented musicians who simply didn’t want to march. “We had all-state level musicians who were walking away because they didn’t want to go outside in the mornings, or didn’t want to have a schedule that full. The year we made the change, we saw an increase in participants in the program. This year we have 146 students in the program—more than we’ve had since before I arrived at Muscatine.”
The volunteer aspect allows students to make the choice to commit to marching band. “By allowing the students to choose to participate, we’ve also been able to affect the attitude and commitment level of the group. Students who want to be part of the marching band are willing to work harder, and students who don’t want to be there are more likely to be disruptive, or problematic with poor attitudes, poor attendance, and poor commitment. By making the change that allows the students to make a choice, we’ve seen a drastic improvement in all aspects of our program,” said Heid.
Heid most enjoys working with the students. As their band director, he said, he has the opportunity spend time with them and help them become better musicians. “They can be hilarious to interact with, and the best part for me is getting to spend four years with most of them. So I get to watch them change, grow up, and become great people. In some ways, I’ll admit, that’s also the worst part. I spend four years working with and getting to know them, then they leave us. It can be hard to send them off,” said Heid.
As a band director, Heid does the obvious jobs of teaching and conducting, but he says there are many more jobs a director has to be able to do as well. “We have to be advisors, helpers, financial experts, music experts, librarians, historians, supporters for students who don’t have supporters, cooks, cleaners, writers, mathematicians, and artists—and that’s just in the first two hours of the day. We also have to be experts on all the instruments so we can help our students learn. We have to know history and theory so we can teach our students and prepare them for their future.”
Heid says there are many responsibilities that come with being a band director, but the biggest and most important is connecting with the students and helping them become better people. “Our students are like our kids. They mean everything to us. We want to see them succeed in whatever career they choose. We want to help them find success, and we want to teach them how to reach their potential in all aspects of their lives. We aren’t trying to create 150 of the best musicians. We are trying to create 150 of the best community members, citizens, leaders, engineers, nurses, and people. We are trying to teach our students to be compassionate and caring. Our hope is that all our students are learning what it means to be a great human being.”