I submitted my letter of resignation as director of instrumental music at Mount Desert Island High School on November 22, 2021 and announced this resignation publicly to our students on December 10. I will continue working at MDIHS until the end of the 2021-2022 school year. While the timing of this announcement is early, we will lose over 50% of our students at the semester change due to class conflicts related to block scheduling. It was important to me to allow current students the time to process this decision together.
Throughout my 8+ years at MDIHS, we have celebrated many remarkable accomplishments and have recaptured the reputation of being one of the finest music programs in New England. We grew the program by over 150%, achieved the highest representation in both classical and jazz All State in Maine for many years, won several state jazz championships before the competition was discontinued, placed each year at the UNH Clark Terry Jazz Festival and twice at the Berklee Jazz Festival, elevating our recognition to an international level. We have performed hundreds of gigs around the local community, established the first school chapter of TRI-M National Music Honor Society, and dozens of our students have gone on to flourish on at the finest conservatories of music in the world.
As a young teacher with great ambition, MDHIS allowed me the freedom to explore the outer limits of my educational philosophy. I cherished working in a school that encouraged me to be myself and try new and innovative methods, however countercultural. I have grown as a leader. I sat on five hiring committees, grew our operating budget by over 50%, managed a robust team of private instructors and colleagues, hosted and managed two district jazz festivals, became a trained mentor, was the 2017 high school graduation speaker, hosted a student teacher, developed several new courses from scratch (AP Music Theory, Music Technology, Music Explorations, etc.), installed seven state of the art MIDI workstations, and served as the island-wide music coordinator for years.
I have attended over 80 music booster meetings, performed at over 40 football games, 100 basketball games, 16 concerts, and worked with over 1000 students.
None of this would have been possible without relationships. I believe that relationships are the foundation of learning and learning is the function of life. Relationships to students, our subject, our community, and ourselves must be carefully cultivated and maintained. To build a relationship with someone, you must know them, where they come from, where they have been, and where they could go. It is not a casual pursuit. It takes time and consistency.
To develop a music program culture that is rooted in these deep, meaningful relationships, students must have consistent access. Every student should be able to find a home within a music program with an abundance of opportunity awaiting them, regardless of skill, ability level, socioeconomic status, gender, race, musical preference, or any other variety of means. A healthy program aims to answer every question with yes and to leave every door wide open, allowing students to enjoy the well-documented and rich benefits that music and music education have to offer toward living a deliberate and full life. But this requires access, consistency, and time.
Compounding circumstances have led to a situation where my philosophy and vision for music education can no longer be sustained at MDIHS.
I am beyond grateful for the remarkable nine years we have shared together. Thank you to the students, families, and communities for your enthusiasm, love, and support.
PC: Walter Churchill
MDIHS MUSIC 2021