Host David Biel, left, interviews Gabe Musella during this year’s Southwest Music Summer Exhibition in San Antonio. Photo credit: “Beyond the Clef,” presented by Director’s Choice.
HOUSTON – Oct. 18, 2017 – Twin Creeks Middle School’s director of bands, Austin Swack, is no stranger to talking with his students and fellow educators about the fine art of making music.
Now, he’s helping bring the conversation to an even wider audience. His appearance as a guest on a recently launched podcast was an opportunity that, according to Swack, was just too good – or, as he explained it, impossible – to turn down.
“The host of the show, David Biel, has been a colleague and a friend ever since we were both students at Texas Tech,” Swack said. “I was in Lubbock to lead a band clinic at his school there, and he said, ‘By the way, after this, we’re going to go to the studio and record a podcast.’ Since he was my ride while I was in town, I didn’t have much choice!”
The interview the two directors recorded that afternoon ended up becoming the pilot episode of “Beyond the Clef,” a new podcast aimed at music educators, and the resulting material was enough to convince Director’s Choice (a Texas-based company whose specialty is arranging travel for school music groups) to sponsor the series.
Swack’s episode, originally released in March, focused on developing band students’ sight-reading skills. Since then, other Spring ISD teachers have also been called on to join the roster of guests. Gabe Musella, director of bands at Spring High School, appeared on Episode 15, where he talked about composing and arranging for band and orchestra, discussed the challenges of traveling with large student groups for performances and competitions, and reflected on the positive impacts of music education on students’ lives.
“We’re very lucky here in Spring ISD, with the depth of experience in our music faculty,” Swack said. “But directors in smaller districts, for instance, don’t always have ready access to that kind of information. Others have come and shared their expertise with us here in Spring over the years, and this is a nice way to help pay it forward and provide a professional development resource that’s available on-demand to directors, wherever they are.”
Future episodes are being planned now, and current episodes are available through iTunes, or through the show’s website. For Swack, his experience on the show left him with a few lessons of his own to take back to the Twin Creeks band room.
“It’s always good, as a professional, to check in, re-evaluate our own teaching, and ask ourselves, ‘What are the values that I hold dear?’” he said. “It allows us to be more reflective and thoughtful about how we approach our work in the classroom.”