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2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Matt Gullickson

Matt Gullickson

Band Director
Eastview High School
Apple Valley, Minnesota

Connection is the key to Band Director Matt Gullickson’s program at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minnesota. “Music is an incredible catalyst,” he says. “For me, the greatest expression of teaching is having true connectedness with students.”

Although Gullickson implements some rigorous methods for his students — such as yoga, mental coaching and studying “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — he gladly participates side by side with them. “I’m not afraid to do something with my students that I know will be good for them,” he explains. “And I’m not a fan of half measures — I prefer full measures. I’m sure the idea of 180 teenagers doing yoga in the wet grass sounds half-baked, but I see it as a pillar to teach vital concepts like stick-to-itiveness, gratitude and not sweating the small stuff.”

Plus, Gullickson sees another benefit. “When do teenagers get quiet time to themselves? They are always doing something,” he says. “Providing them a few peaceful minutes at the end of our yoga session to examine their own thoughts is a badge of honor for me!”

Known as a creative designer of unique, challenging and award-winning field shows, Gullickson is proud to be a part of an all-local team that has created a brand that is unmistakably Eastview. “My favorite part of designing for marching band is conjuring up ways to give students a one-of-a-kind role in our show,” he explains. “I’m always thinking: How can I use my spotlight as a designer to shine a light on a kid in a way that best fits their talents?”

The school’s 2022 fall show, “Baroque-n-Record,” was a mashup of Bach meeting Sir Mix-A-Lot. “We fed Bach to the football crowd and Dr. Dre to the competitive marching band crowd, and they were both better for it,” Gullickson laughs. “I knew I wanted to finish with Pachelbel’s Canon but not Phantom Regiment style. We used the famous chord progression as background and then put a rap over the top of it. I’d never seen rap being performed as part of a marching band show but figured it was time, and Pachelbel wouldn’t mind.”

He adds that the student who performed the rap was one of the most introverted students he’d ever taught. “To watch him perform in front of the homecoming crowd was unforgettable,” Gullickson proudly proclaims. “He had them in the palm of his hand!”

Gullickson likes to push students outside of their comfort zones. “My biggest learning moments came during times when more was expected of me than I thought I was capable of. That’s why I push students to flex different muscles,” he says. “What you believe about students becomes what you see, so it is only to your benefit to believe they are capable great things.”