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2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Taylor Spakes

Taylor Spakes

Director of Performing Arts
West Rowan Middle School
Salisbury, North Carolina

When the band program at West Rowan Middle School was in danger of being cut, Taylor Spakes, the choir director, stepped in. “Knowing that both band and chorus is so important to the community, I could not allow for one of the programs to be cut from the school,” she says. “The high school program was in a state of regrowth after COVID, and eliminating its main feeder band program was not an accessible option.”

To prepare herself for her new position as Director of Performing Arts, Spakes met (and continues to meet) with other band directors to receive what she calls “band director lessons. They have been a huge help in getting me up to speed on correct technique with playing instruments and learning the keys to a successful band program, as well as how to fix an instrument, how to teach a beginning instrumentalist, and how to put an instrument together for the first time,” she says.

Luckily for Spakes, her choir experience provided the foundation for how to run a music program. “When in comes to performing, music is music, no matter the vessel,” she says. “Specifically, teaching choir has given me a leg up on how to teach ear training, aural skills and audiation. I infuse singing into the band program to help train ears, which has proven to be helpful in sight reading.”

One of Spakes’ proudest moment as a music educator happened in the spring of 2022 at a combined concert with the high school choir. “Each year, my choir students sing ‘Seasons of Love’ from ‘Rent,’” she explains. “We also learn the song in sign language to show how music can be experienced by those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. At this concert, all choir students from 6th to 12th grade had learned that song with me. The stage was flooded with my current and past students to create a massive choir. Seeing all my students from the beginning of my teaching career to the current year was the most fulfilling and beautiful way to end the school year.”