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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Brad Hart

Brad Hart

Instrumental Music Teacher
Peter Johansen High School
Modesto, California

Inclusive is the best way to describe the music program at Peter Johansen High School. Instrumental Music  Teacher Brad Hart oversees the United Sound chapter at the school, which pairs students with special needs, called “New Musicians” with band members, called “Peer Mentors.”

“During our first Spring as a United Sound chapter, a New Musician was able to travel and perform with the band at Carnegie Hall,” Hart says. “One of our Peer Mentors made the choice to pursue special education as a result of the connection and experience. The new friends and colleagues in music make real connections that is evident around campus. They know each other as musicians and as people, and we get to see the impact of those relationships every week.”

Hart was able to create additional leadership positions for some of the Peer Mentors who can gain experience making lesson plans, reviewing how classes went and writing parts together. “It can be a struggle for sure, but at no time is the struggle not worth it,” he says.

Another way that Hart works with special education students is with a weekly bucket drumming class for three of the school’s severely handicap classes. Students learn rhythms and apply them to performing various styles of music. “They performed ‘Sweet Caroline’ at a rally last year with our band program, and for the last two years, they performed at their field day event with student colleagues from around the county. It’s pure joy to make music with them each week,” Hart says.

Engaging directly with the community is important to Hart, and he established a schedule of performances to do just that. Outside of the traditional school concerts, the band participates in several parades, including the Fourth of July parade with local veterans, winter city of lights parade, a holiday parade and the Airport Neighborhood parade. There are also many jazz combo and jazz band opportunities throughout the year around the community.

Peter Johansen High School has a history of collaborating with guest artists and groups, including The Family Crest, Josh Rosenblum Band and Orquesta Dharma. In February 2024, the band will perform with Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra.

Hart also works with new composers and has commissioned several over the years. The school band has also performed works written by students.

“Our program has never been as big as I want it to be because I believe every student should be in music through high school,” Hart says. “But I have always wanted to adapt to reflect who the students are and project to them ways to expand their understanding.”