Instrumental Music Director Armond Walter weaves some of the valuable lessons he learned from his mother — for example, “you define what success looks like” and “it’s not always about winning, rather what you learn or how you grow in the process” — into his classrooms at Meadville Area Middle School and Meadville Area Senior High School. “I tell my students to ‘do your best,’” he says. “While this mostly pertains to auditions and performances, it is something they can use in all other aspects of life. We discuss that there’s always room for growth, and we should be constantly evaluating ourselves to not only be better musicians, but better individuals.”
Walter knows that activities, teachers and peer relationships are some of the strongest incentives for students to come to school and do well. “Music is my avenue to connect with a broad range of students who can feel at home in my classroom because they are comfortable to be themselves without fear of judgment,” he explains.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, going to school was not an option. At that time, Walter was the president of the District 2 chapter of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), and he worked with other directors in his area to brainstorm and share ideas following the release of a national performing arts aerosol study and how to minimize the risk of COVID transmission.
“There was a basic plan created that each director could customize to best fit their program and school district,” Walter says. “While the results of our efforts varied across the area, many schools were able to continue with in-person rehearsals for jazz band, concert band, orchestras and other ensembles. For those who were not able to return to performing right away, we facilitated Zoom meetings to ask questions and discuss what directors could do to keep students engaged.”
While Walter was earning his master’s degree, he was told to advocate for his students because “someone was once an advocate for you or else you wouldn’t be here.” This pay-it-forward approach is something Walter takes to heart. “The achievements we see in our department are not influenced by one person, but many,” he says. “Through band, chorus, orchestra and drama, we work to offer our students a variety of opportunities that they enjoy and take ownership of.”