Being a band director is the Pohland family profession. Joel Pohland’s father, Glenn, and his brother, John, are both band directors, and Joel learned from both of them that the key to building a great band program is building relationships beyond the band room. And that is exactly what he has done at Pierz Healy High School.
Pohland has an open-door policy for his students and shows them that they can trust him to be more than their band director. “I am not afraid to share personal stories, trials and exciting adventures in my life, and the students appreciate this so much,” he says. “They want to know that their teachers are human and go through problems just like they do. I hope that by providing them room to express themselves outside of the band room and ask for help outside of music, that students will engage more completely in the band room and have trust in me to guide them to be the best versions of themselves — as musicians and human beings.”
In addition to providing support to his students, Pohland also challenges them musically. He searches for and discovers new music from new composers that push the boundaries of what has normally been done in the band world. “New composers are writing fun techniques such as using paper (as in “Paper Cut” by Alex Shapiro) and so much more that engages students to a new level, which in turn engages our audience,” Pohland says. “I always try to find a central theme to our music, and I think that the students and audiences have really appreciated this because it adds to the overall concert experience.”
One memorable concert was the first performance after the COVID hiatus in the spring of 2021. “The Comeback Concert was incredible,” Pohland says. “There was so much passion and energy from the students — I’ve never seen so much excitement in the band room prior to a performance. It had been over a year since our last live performance, and the students were overjoyed.”
Pohland appreciates the support his program receives from the administration and community. “Pierz is a really special place to work,” he says. “We have an incredible music team … and together we have created an incredible music program in our community, and the students have a place where they feel like they belong. So many students comment on how the band room is like a second home or an unexpected home — this is the greatest compliment I can receive as a music educator.”