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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Charlene Cannon conducting

Charlene Cannon

Band Director
Horizon High School
Winter Garden, Florida

Changing jobs is always stressful, but moving to a brand-new school is particularly daunting. From day one, Horizon High School Band Director Charlene Cannon focused on building a culture of teamwork and collaboration between all sections to ensure that students would be positive and helpful to one another.

“Our first activity at our first band camp was determining what we would say when the marching band was called to attention because I wanted to make sure all students felt included as part of establishing the look and vibe of our marching band, The Sound of Horizon,” she says. “I have a frame in my office with pictures from day one and day 10 of this first band camp. The difference in camaraderie and connectedness amongst the students is evident. These photos drive me every day to continue my work on student culture and connection to ensure that everyone has a positive experience in my classroom.”

At band camp, there were 36 students. By the second week of school, the number of students almost doubled to 68. Since then, Cannon’s program has experienced a steady growth. “I write my own marching band drill formations each year, and I did a lot of re-writing that first year to make sure that everyone who joined would be included no matter when they signed up for the band program,” she explained.

Cannon was in a unique situation when she started at Horizon High School because a middle school opened on the high school campus at the same time, and she also served as the band director there for a year. She encouraged teamwork and friendship among the middle schoolers, which they carried with them when they entered high school.

For students with no prior musical experience, Cannon started a beginning band class this year to ensure that there was an entry-level option. “This class is taught the same way as the other classes, just at a different pace. By focusing on their individual fundamentals, we’ve made remarkable progress in a short amount of time,” she says.

Cannon encourages her band students to participate in other activities. “I am so proud that my students are also involved in football, cheerleading, golf, cross country, track and field, basketball, volleyball, various clubs and honor societies, tutoring and more,” she says. “I believe that participating in other activities provides high school students the chance to be well-rounded and the mindset to always try new things.”

When Horizon opened, Cannon worked with athletics to determine a policy for resolving conflicts between sports and performing arts. “I’m fortunate to have colleagues who understand the importance of supporting these multi-talented, busy students. The band and color guard students have become excellent advocates of time management and responsibility for their schedules,” she says.