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Alfred Watkins and the Lassiter High School Band: A qualitative study

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Sue Samuels
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to explore the life and lifework of Alfred Watkins, Director of Bands at Lassiter High School for 27 years and to describe the components that contribute to the success of the Lassiter High School Band Program. Lassiter High School, located in Marietta, Georgia, has grown to represent excellence in all facets of the program and has sustained the reputation and the reality of that high level of achievement for nearly 30 years. Excellence in large ensemble performance (concert bands, marching band, jazz band), chamber music, and individual performances have led to Lassiter's recognition nationally as one of the most comprehensive high school band programs in the country. Topics covered include Watkins' philosophy of the program, band curriculum, organization, and other unique qualities that have contributed to the development of the program. Data collection for this qualitative inquiry included direct observation, participant observation, video observation, study of documents and artifacts, and systematic interviewing to describe the history, philosophy, structure and organization used by this exemplary teacher and this exemplary high school band program. Observations from this study can inform practicing high school band directors and their programs and can also be used to shape curriculum for undergraduate music education students.

Table of Contents

Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... ii

Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... iii

List o f Figures ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... vii

Chapter 1 - Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 1

Chapter 2 – Review of Related Literature ................................ ................................ ........ 5

Music Teacher Effectiveness ................................ ................................ ................ 6

Group Cohesion and Efficacy ................................ ................................ ............. 10

Music Education Curriculum ................................ ................................ .............. 11

Historically Significant School Band Conductors ................................ ............... 15

Summary of Relevant Lit erature ................................ ................................ ......... 19

Purpose Statement and Research Questions ................................ ........................ 20

Chapter 3 - Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 21

Organization of the Study ................................ ................................ ................... 26

Chapter 4 – Personal Background of Alfred Watkins ................................ ..................... 27

Early Influences ................................ ................................ ................................ . 27

Musical Influences ................................ ................................ ............................. 29

Education ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 29

Murphy High School Years ................................ ................................ ................ 31

Tran sition to Lassiter High School ................................ ................................ ..... 33

v

Chapter 5 – Program Structure and Organization ................................ ........................... 37

Curriculum Balance ................................ ................................ ........................... 37

Organization of Teaching ................................ ................................ ................... 45

Chapter 6 – Pedagogical Approach ................................ ................................ ................ 48

Learning Readiness ................................ ................................ ............................ 50

Private Lesson Approach ................................ ................................ .................... 54

The Daily Routine ................................ ................................ .............................. 56

Video O bservation of Daily Routine ................................ ................................ .. 58

Pedagogical Planning ................................ ................................ ......................... 61

Repertoire, Performance - based Education, and Comprehensive

Musicianship ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 66

Personal Musicianship ................................ ................................ ....................... 68

Communication ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 70

Chapter 7 – Group Cohesion ................................ ................................ .......................... 72

Leadership Curriculum ................................ ................................ ....................... 72

Fostering Collaborat ion ................................ ................................ ...................... 74

Social and Emotional Connections ................................ ................................ ..... 79

Chapter 8 – Symphonic Band Camp ................................ ................................ .............. 82

Chapter 9 - Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 88

Recommendations ................................ ................................ .............................. 92

Implications for Further Research ................................ ................................ ...... 96

References ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 98

Appendix A: Outline for Initial Interview ................................ ................................ ... 109

vi

Appendix B: Transcriptio n of General Interview #1 with Alfred Watkins ................... 110

Appendix C: Transcription of General Interview #2 with Alfred Watkins ................... 165

Appendix D: Lassiter Band Handbook Excerpts ................................ ......................... 215

Appendix E: Human Subjects Consent Form ................................ .............................. 226

Appendix F: Outline for Colleagu e Interviews ................................ ............................ 227

vii

List of Figures

1.

Lassiter Marching Band, Bands of America Grand Nationals, 1998 ................... 41

2.

Lassiter Symphonic I Band, Midwest Clinic, 1989 ................................ ............. 41

3.

Backstage after Sudler Flag Concert, 1989 ................................ ......................... 42

4.

Lassiter band program music al structure ................................ ............................ 43

5.

Sample marching band rehearsal timeframe ................................ ....................... 63

6.

Alfred Watkins in rehearsal, 2009 ................................ ................................ ...... 64

7.

Goal planning based on differentiated abilities ................................ ................... 65

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CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

With more than 15,000 public high schools in the United States (NCES, 2009), it seems that more than a handful of exemplary high school band programs should exist. Band directors look towards several nationally recognized awards as indicators of significant achievement for high school band programs. Per forming at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, rec eiving the Sudler Flag of Honor or Sudler Shield from the John Philip Sousa Foundation, reac hing the finals competition at the Bands of America National Championships, or be ing selected to perform at a major parade (e.g., Macy’s Thanksgiving or Rose Bowl) are some milestone achievements by which the high school band profession measures a program’s success. While it is extraordinary for a high school band program to achieve any one of these r ecognizable successes, only five schools in the United States have attained all five of these significant achievements as of this writing: Duncanville High School (Texas, Tom Shine, Director of Bands), Lassiter High School (Georgia, Alfred Watkins, Direct or of Bands), North Hardin High School (Kentucky, Charles Campbell, Director of Bands), Owasso High School (Oklahoma, David Gorham, Director of Bands), and Westfield High School (Texas, Philip Geiger, Director of Bands). Of these five nationally recognized high school band programs, the Lassiter High School Band is exceptional because of its

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unparalleled level of achievements sustained over an extensive period of time and because of the personal attributes of its Director of Bands, Alfred Watkins.

I first m et Alfred Watkins in the spring of 1987 when I interviewed for the Assistant Director of Bands position at Lassiter High School. I had a vague idea about how lucky I was to be offered that job, but there was no way to know how much I would grow and develop as a teacher because of Mr. Watkins’ influence. While I believe strongly in the quality of my undergraduate education, I would most certainly not be the same teacher I am today had I not worked side by side and shared an office with Alfred Watkins for 12 years. His skills in developing and maintaining a comprehensive band program, consistently creating outstanding performances, and instilling tenacity and a love for music - making for decades of students merit study beyond the cursory glance.

What is it abou t Alfred Watkins and what he has done as a teacher for nearly three decades that has brought incomparable success to the Lassiter High School Band program? Is it the overall organization and structure he has created? Is it the daily routine he has establis hed? Is it his musicianship and rehearsal skills? Philosophy? Personality? Motivation? What has he done and does he continue to do on a daily basis in the classroom that has consistently fostered

a depth of musical learning for his students? What can we le arn through an in - depth study of Mr. Watkins’ philosophy, leadership , and pedagogy that can be passed on for others to emulate?

As a music teacher educator, I am interested in discovering what happens in Alfred Watkins’ classroom that can be extrapolated and crafted into creating a more effective curriculum for future music teachers. This research project represents an attempt to create greater insight and understanding about the composition of the Lassiter Band

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program including the his tory and developmen t of the program, the philosophical approach of the teacher, the construction and organization of the program, and the educational and musical events that occur regularly in the program . In order to learn more about this unique teacher and program, a quali tative examination utilizing direct observation, participant observation, video observation, study of documents and artifacts, and systematic interviewing was used with the intention of creating a rich descriptive portrait of elements that other band direc tors may replicate with their own school band curricula (Creswell, 2007).

In the field of music education, there has been a great deal of research about effective teaching, with characteristics and skills being broken into three primary subject areas: musi cal skills and knowledge, teaching skills, and personality traits . Additionally, while much research has been undertaken to define important skills and dispositions to be included in the undergraduate music education curriculum, there is no

clear agreement on which specific pedagogical knowledge and skills make the difference between ordinary teaching and truly e xtraordinary, iconic teaching. Neither is there clear agreement among music teacher educations regarding how to incorporate the knowledge and skill s into an already overc rowded four or five - year curriculum . Furthermore, the creation and organization of an exemplary program requires more than excellent teaching. In order to gain a better understanding of what is involved in the creation of a program w ith longstanding excellence, music teacher educators must also examine the philosophies behind the choices made in the classroom, the organization and structure of the overall program, and the combination of these elements within the context of their natur al setting.

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Most instrumental ists gain the preponderance of their experience through large ensemble performance. Instrumentalists learn by doing, experiencing, and actively engaging in music - making . Certainly, much can be learned through reading and disc ussing facts and theories. However, active participation in hands - on, authentic - context learning experiences taps into the foundation of learning music. The mentor - apprentice relationship and the familiarity of modeling behaviors to create new knowledge an d skill levels naturally parallel musical practice.

In order to shed light on the complexities and details related to Alfred Watkins and the teaching, development, and excellence of the Lassiter Band Program, it was necessary to examine the situation as a qualitative study. Although much of this investigation was indeed of an historical nature, the direct observation and video observation used in data collection created a unique approach by combining historical narrative along with a contemporary, present - d ay examination. I conducted an empirical investigation of this unique band director and program in their natural context, influenced by the idea of case study research (Yin, 2003). By narrowing the focus to one exemplary program, it was possible to examine an ideal situation with much greater detail than if a larger sample had been studied. This type of investigation was similar to using a zoom lens on a camera (Barrett, 2007) rather than a wide - angle lens. This

unique teacher and program merited a concentr ated focus that illuminated the structure and composition of the Lassiter High School band program.

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CHAPTER 2

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

For this study, several domains of relevant research seemed appropriate for review. First, because one of the main data sources was observation of Alfred Watkins’ teaching strategies and practices, research in music teacher effectiveness was reviewed . Examining the qualities and techniques of successful high school teaching provided a reference base for the emergent t hemes resulting from this investigation. Although music teacher effectiveness has received a great deal of attention in the research literature, it was found to be lacking in number of qualitative research studies. As themes emerge d during th is study, coll aboration and group cohesion appeared to be significant for Watkins and the Lassiter Band Program. Thus, this research topic — while scant in the area of music education — was also

examined. Since one of the primary aims of this study was to illuminate concep ts and materials that could be passed on to others, literature related to music teacher education curriculum was examined to determine what was lacking and how to incorporate such knowledge into that curriculum. Finally, research about historically signifi cant band conductors helped to shape this study. Of particular interest were studies related to successful high school band conductors. A review of relevant literature for this study must therefore cover several areas of research. The four primary areas ar e outlined below, with a brief explanation of how to connect these topics for a holistic view of the current study.

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Music Teacher Effectiveness

The preparation of prospective educators is a topic of concern among researchers in music teacher education. W hile there is global agreement regarding the significance of effective teaching, which specific skills and traits are most im portant is a constant debate. Madsen (2003) sought to define which teaching skills, delivery skills, and classroom management skil ls were deemed most effective for classroom music teachers. Participants ( N = 168) represented four groups: music students in grades 6 - 8 ( N = 42), music students in grades 9 - 12 ( N = 42), undergraduate music education majors ( N = 42), and experienced classro om music teachers ( N = 42). Participants viewed and evaluated a videotape of eight investigator - created teaching segments that isolated variables (accurate / inaccurate teaching, high /l ow delivery skills, and on /off - task student behaviors). The segments were presented in a random order, and participants used a form to rate the effectiveness of each segment on a 10 - point Likert - type scale with written commen ts that were coded for themes. Results indicated that high delivery presentations (i.e., teachers who pr esented a fast - paced lesson with a high degree of energy and interaction with students) received more positive responses from participants regardless of the accuracy of lessons. Thus, teacher delivery may have a greater impact on teacher effectiveness rati ngs . If that is so, a case may be made for music education programs to teach high delivery skills with in the curriculum.

Ballantyne and Packer (2004) investigated the knowledge, skills, and capabilities that early - career secondary music teachers ( N = 136) perceived to be necessary to function effectively in the classroom as well as those teachers’ perspectives on the effectiveness of their teacher education progr am in preparing them to teach. The

7

questionnaire covered four major areas of knowledge and skill s : music al , pedagogical, general, and non - pedagogical . Pedagogical content items that were rated as highly important but reported as inadequately covered in the undergraduate curriculum included: knowledge of music teaching techniques, engaging students w ith music in a meaningful way, implementing music curriculum effectively, assessing students’ abilities, and explaining and d emonstrating musical concepts. Thus , a strong teacher education program should seek to strengthen these skills within its curricula r offerings .

Duke and Simmons (2006) sought to identify the specific skills and traits in the teaching of ex pert artist - teachers ( N = 3) in music. The g oal of the investigators was to determine if there were common elements that e ffected positive change in students’ performances. Investigators found 19 elements common to each of the three teachers and organized them into three broad categories: Goals and Expectations (e.g., “Teachers have clear auditory image that guides their judgmen ts”), Effecting Change (e.g., “Teachers are tenacious, often having the students repeat a passage until there is a positive change”), and Conveying I nformation (e .g . , “Negative feedback is clear, precise, frequent and specific, while positive feedback is intermittent…unexp ected , and of high magnitude”).

Duke and Simmons

found and outline d complex, higher - order thinking skills that require excellent musicianship, insight, experience, intuition, communication skill s, and a passion for teaching. These 19 traits provide an excellent guideline for aspiring music teachers, and music education professors should seek to instill these qualities in pre - service

teachers .

A study of eight Midwestern band directors ( Jachens, 1987) investigated the pedagogical approaches of these teachers who had outstanding high school concert b ands

8

in the 1920s and 1930s. Through extensive interviews and a narrative approach, Jachens organized and analyzed d ata in two primary categories: methods of teaching tone, intonation, technique, and interpretation ;

and p edagogical means and motives (full ensemble pedagogical materials, philosophy of instruction, rehearsal techniques, and goals and objecti ves for ensemble development). Jachens present ed his findings as practical, music - oriented, pedagogical practices. S ome of the findings i nclude d the ability to describe and provide tonal models, the presence of a regular warm up period in which tone is emphasized, group ear training, rhythm classes and counting, clear teaching of varied articulation, teaching principles of expres sion, and modeling expression. Additionally, the master teachers were constant students of the band activity and studied post - rehearsal notes and planning, demonstrated enthusiasm for the repertoire, and were se nsitive to rehearsal momentum. Perf ormance was seen as the best way for students to understand and experience music first - hand, so the teachers had excellent performance - teaching skills .

Other studies related to teacher effectiveness explored the qualities relevant to excellence in teaching . In his evaluative report, Cruickshank (1990, as referenced in Colwell, 1992) suggested that

teachers are effective when they are enthusiastic, stimulating, encouraging, warm, task - oriented, and businesslike, tolerant, polite, tactful, trusting, flexible , adaptable, and democratic. Also, they hold high expectations for pupils, do not seek personal recognition, care less about being liked, and are able to overcome pupil stereotypes, are less time - conscious, feel responsible for people learning, are able t o express feelings and have good listening skills.

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The majority of the reviewed studies approached the topic of teacher effectiveness from a quantitative point of view. Studies related to how band directors spend time in rehearsal and their use of verbal instruction with the ensemble were plentiful (Blocher, Greenwood, & Shellahamer, 1997; Duke & Madsen, 1991 ; Goolsby, 1996, 1997; Madsen, 2003; Mory, 1992). Also numerous were studies related to sequencing of information during rehearsals ( Price, 1992; Yar brough & Hendel, 1992; Yarbrough, Price, & Hendel, 1994). These studies suggested that the most experienced and effective teachers spent more time engaging students in performance and that these teachers approached classroom instruction with a logical seq uence pattern that was clearly communicated to the students. Other studies focused on the band directors’ use of approval and disapproval or other rehearsal techniques and interactions from primarily a quantitative point of view (Iida, 1991; Lien, 2002; Ma dsen & Duke, 1985; Pontious, 1982). These studies indicated a need to provide frequent approval to students both verbally and non - verbally and to provide intermittent disapprovals along with recommendations of how to improve. While most studies in music ed ucation research examined teacher effectiveness by seeking commonalities of many teachers, this study was designed with a different approach. Rather than attempting to determine qualities of teacher effectiveness among music teachers in general , this study was designed to zoom in and focus upon one iconic teacher in an effort to understand how he created and maintained an outstanding band program that may serve as an exemplar for the band profession, especially at the high school teaching level.

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Group Coh esion and Efficacy

S etting goals and working towards achievement constitute a large contribution to the creation of group cohesion . In the fields of sociology and social psychology, group cohesion has been defined as an active process wherein group members unify in the pursuit of common goals or shared purposes (Steiner, 1972). Group cohesiveness is viewed as multi - dimensional: goal or task - based and interpersonal or social - based (Zaccaro & Lowe, 2001). In task - oriented cohesion, group members share a comm itment to the task of the group. In a study that involved adolescents in an outdoor course challenge experience, group cohesion was fostered through the shared task experience (Glass & Benshoff, 2002). In interpersonal cohesiveness, group members may share an attraction to other members of the group or towards the social perception of being a member of the particular group. It is through the combination of task - cohesiveness and interpersonal - cohesiveness in some type of cooperative activity that group membe rs participate in developing a group’s identity. This identity development appears to lead to strong group cohesion and a high positive interdependence among group participants, regardless of the specific task (Serrano & Pons, 2007). High task - cohesiveness and high interpersonal cohesiveness appear to be significant contributors to increased productivity (Zaccaro & Lowe, 2001).

In a musical ensemble , group cohesion , productivity , and collective efficacy

affect the perception of conductor support in ensemble rehearsals (Matthews, 2007). In this investigation, skilled high school instrumental students ( N = 91) responded to survey items related to collective efficacy, group cohesion, and motivational climate during rehearsals. Collective efficacy, related to th e more common term self - efficacy, refers to

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the group’s perception of their combined capabilities to accomplish a given task (Bandura, 1986). Thus, the individual members of a musical ensemble view their individual contributions, the group’s collective eff icacy, and the conductor’s support as significant contributors to the quality of their experience in an ensemb le. Certainly, individuals’ perception s of quality of experience directly impact

their motivation to continue to make positive contributions to t he group — the payoff must outweigh the personal costs of participation (Steiner, 1972). Research suggests that participatio n in a high school band program , thus, must offer an environment rich in conductor support, group cohesion, and collective efficacy ( Matthews, 2007).

Music Education Curriculum

In 2001 Asmus discussed his opinions regarding the ever - increasing requirements that the National Association of Schools of Music, state boards of education, and even university colleges of e ducation have placed upon the undergradua te music education curriculum. Music education majors working toward certification to teach in the public schools take courses in the general core studies, education, music, and in music education. What was once a four - year degree has shifted in many schools into a minimum five - year undergraduate degree program (Conway, 2002). Music teacher educators continue to debate the most valuable content to include in the undergraduate curriculum. Wh at courses should be included? What shou ld be t aught in those courses? Is it possible to collaborate with other faculty to incorporate a variety of material into one course or into a smaller amount of time in order to better facilitate the music education curriculum (Thornton, Murphy, & Hamilton, 2004) ? Music education professors must determine the needs of the student in the classroom — the elementary and secondary

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school classroom — and then determine the needs of those future teachers in order to design a curriculum better suited to the real - life teachin g situations that will be faced by the future music educator (Asmus, 2001). Upon seeing the need for curricular change in undergraduate music teacher education, the College Music Society music education committee created the Institute on Music Teacher Edu cation so that music teacher educators might stimulate discussion regarding the recognized need to initiate collaboration for curricular reform. (Hickey & Rees, 2002). Music education professors must continue to look towards reforming the music education c urriculum to empower future teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in the classroom while keeping in mind that the undergraduate curriculum cannot continue to augment course requirements.

Conway (2002) recognized t he need to evaluate the impact that current teacher education programs on the ability o f teacher candidates to teach effectively. Conway found that the most valued aspects of the novice teachers ’ pre - service training were: s tudent teaching, fieldwork/pract ic a , ensemble experiences, and private instrument lessons. The first - year teachers cited the least helpful courses as teacher education courses, early field observations without context, and instrument metho ds courses when taught by professors who did not have K - 12 school experience. Her findings indicated that the first - year teachers most valued authentic - context learning and skills that contributed to their personal overall musicianship. In their program evaluation guide, Cruickshank and Metcalf (1993) fu rther supported the strength of authentic - context learning in the general classroom and proposed an on - campus laboratory experience for preservice teachers in order to better assess these novice teachers. An approach utilizing

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microteaching episodes, simul ations, and reflective teaching proved to be beneficial in creating opportunities for teacher assessment and improv ing teacher preparation

Roulston, Legette, and Womack (2005) conducted a similar study whereby they learned that the young teachers valued “h ands on” pre - service training experiences and would have liked to have experience d more hands - on situations in authentic settings during their undergraduate training. The participants ( N = 9) appreciated assistance from formal and informal mentors in field experi ences and student teaching. The novice teachers reported that some of undergraduate courses had been too theoretical and not practic al, and the participants felt generally ill - equipped fo r classroom management issues. Again, these findings point tow ard reform of current music education curricul a .

Campbell and Thompson (2007) compared the concerns of preservice music education teachers across four different points in t heir professional development. Of three classifications of teacher concerns (self co ncerns, task concerns, and impact concerns) impact concerns rated the highest, meaning future teachers were most uneasy about large - scale issues such as “helping students to value music” and “being able to motivate students to learn” while they rated lowes t the task concerns such as “skills for working with disruptive students” and “creatin g support for music programs.” Additionally, findings indicated the need for early opportunities for students to be exposed to real - life situations so that as their conc ern levels increase, they apply new information gleaned in their undergraduate curriculum to adjust to these concerns.

Teachout (1997) compared the responses of preservice teachers to experienced teachers regarding “what skills and behaviors are important to successful music teaching within the fir st three years of experience.” Of the 10 top - ranked items for each gro up,

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seven were common to both: be mature and have self control, be able to motivate students, have strong leadership skills, involve students i n the learning process, display confidence, be organized, and employ a positive approach. T eachout concluded that t echniques to develop the above - listed skills and behaviors are not included in the tradition al music education curriculum. Review of the rese arch suggests that the addition of more authentic - context learning experiences and increased exposure to examples of excellent teachers and music programs may provide opportunities for development of those skills that are deemed important by both pre - servi ce teachers and experienced teachers.

As teacher educators, college music education faculty must decide what content must be covered in the undergradua te music education curriculum. Rohwer and Henry (2004) addressed this issue when they sought to describe university music education teachers’ perceptions of the skills and characteristics need ed to be an effective teacher. R esponses were categorized into three broad areas: teaching skills, personality char acteristics, and music skills. Respondents indicated that teaching skills were ranked highest i n terms of overall importance. These skills include classroom management, ability to give clear instructions, pacing, eye contact, organiza tion, and questioning skills. Surprisingly, musical skills received the low est rankings. However, the musical skill components of being musically expressive, error detection, sight - reading, theory/history knowledge, performance, and conducting had mean scores as high as or higher than most of the teaching skills and pers onality c haracteristics items. Rohwer and Henry concluded

Full document contains 238 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore the life and lifework of Alfred Watkins, Director of Bands at Lassiter High School for 27 years and to describe the components that contribute to the success of the Lassiter High School Band Program. Lassiter High School, located in Marietta, Georgia, has grown to represent excellence in all facets of the program and has sustained the reputation and the reality of that high level of achievement for nearly 30 years. Excellence in large ensemble performance (concert bands, marching band, jazz band), chamber music, and individual performances have led to Lassiter's recognition nationally as one of the most comprehensive high school band programs in the country. Topics covered include Watkins' philosophy of the program, band curriculum, organization, and other unique qualities that have contributed to the development of the program. Data collection for this qualitative inquiry included direct observation, participant observation, video observation, study of documents and artifacts, and systematic interviewing to describe the history, philosophy, structure and organization used by this exemplary teacher and this exemplary high school band program. Observations from this study can inform practicing high school band directors and their programs and can also be used to shape curriculum for undergraduate music education students.