The first year of teaching is always exciting and nerve-wracking, but for Brandon J. Duras, the Director of Instrumental Music a Brunswick High School in Maine, it was much more than that because the pandemic hit and schools were closed. “Admittedly, I think I was in denial about school being remote for the remainder of the year,” he says. “We were told that our school would be remote for two weeks, then another two weeks. We didn’t need to meet face to face as a group to rehearse, but I wanted to. I heard from the students that their time in online rehearsals was their favorite part of the day. They needed that interaction, and honestly, I did too!”
Duras took over a strong and established program and was navigating how to make the program his own while not shaking things up too suddenly for the students. “I was confident in my abilities but felt that I had to prove myself worthy of the position,” he says. “Luckily, I had great colleagues and students to help me through the transition.”
One way that Duras has made his mark at Brunswick High is by bringing in new music and diversifying the programming. “Over the past four years, we have added about 10 new works to the wind band repertoire through commissions and consortia,” he explains. “Through these works, we have been able to build relationships with some of the composers and work with them to bring their music to life.”
Balancing staples in the repertoire with new works, especially by underrepresented composers, keeps his program moving forward. “It gives my students the opportunity to learn about the past and be part of the future,” Duras says. “Even in a state that is 94% white, it’s important for my students to represent the greater wind band world through our repertoire.”
Duras is proud of what his program has accomplished, especially at a competition in Washington, D.C. over spring break last year. His students put together music in a few short weeks, and they swept their division! The D.C. trip ended in a special way for Duras and his students — with a police escort into town. “Any chance I see a student succeed and feel proud of themselves — and these moments do not need to be musical — is a proud moment for me,” he says.