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David Bechard

Director of Instrumental Music
Wahlert Catholic High School
Dubuque, Iowa

When David Bechard started at Wahlert Catholic High School, the band had 13 members. After relentless recruiting for 18 months, the band grew to 52 members — a growth of 400%! “My plan was to make band fun and create a sense of ownership for the students,” Bechard said. “I focused on building their sense of community and pride.”

A part of the fun factor was the virtual Halloween concert. “We missed our annual Halloween Parade due to COVID-19, so I wanted to give my students a fun Halloween experience,” Bechard said. “We recorded ‘Thriller’ in our main gym and my ‘zombie cymbals’ slowly chased my bass clarinetist, adding to the zombie horde throughout the song!”

Even though Wahlert’s band is small compared to other schools, Bechard did not just make do with what he had. He repeatedly asked for resources for his program. A costly ask was acoustic paneling in the band room, which would help students hear the other instruments better. “The most important step I took was reminding the office at every opportunity that the paneling was a need — physically, musically and educationally,” he said.

According to one of his “40 Under 40” nomination letters, “It wasn’t long ago that Wahlert Catholic High School’s band looked like toast. Then David Bechard stepped in. A dwindling band that didn’t march and struggled to play concert band music due to lack of instrumentation is now playing Friday night football games and playing quality concert band literature.”