OT: Texas

Hello everyone!

      My wife really wants to move to a big city somewhere, and I would like to go somewhere where the percussion scene is happening. I know big cities and music education don't always get along, but how is the texas area? I have heard good things and many of the corps are auditioning there (Hell, the crossmen moved there) So can anyone give me the hook up on what texas percussion is like?

Here's a background of percussion in most of VA: Most band directors have marching bands of around 40-80 people, concert bands around twice that, and a jazz band. Percussion ensembles are sort of starting to get on their feet but, most schools don't have a percussion instructor, nor can they afford one. There are a few RARE schools with more than one band director. Usually there is no staff during the marching season. A local college dude will come in and teach the percussion for a week, then they will be on their own. Usually when this happends (for some odd reason) the pit is not included in the instruction, so they are lacking in skill and lazy in demeanor. The closest corps are 8-10 hours away. There are a few percussion hotspots near D.C. and the coast (AIA circuit,wgi) and a couple schools near Richmond that have a full time instructor. But these areas are VERY expensive to live. A buddy of mine teaches band up there (has a masters) and gets paid about 45,000 a year (3rd year teacher) His rent on a one bedroom, not enough room to do anything apartment is around 1,500 a month. Yikes!

I'm not ";unhappy"; here in VA, but it would be nice to teach percussion on a more full time basis with school systems that think music is important enough to properly staff their program. SO with that said, any reccomendations on locations?
Are you certified? For the really cush jobs you need to be certified to teach. The Houston scene is great if you can stand summers over 100 degrees and about a 3 week winter that MIGHT get down into the high 20's:)

Houston suburbs are absolutely exploding. In Cypress Fairbanks ISD (west houston) they are opening 2 new high schools this year alone (making I think 9 in total for the district). In 2000 I started teaching in CFISD and with 0 years experience I was making 41k. It's only gotten higher since then.

Fine Arts is majorly supported in both community and in financial backing. Most band programs (middle school and high school) have 2 to 3 directors. Some of them will pay for a paraprofessional through their boosters, some of them keep that 3rd position for a drum guy. Usually it is a ";drum guy only in the fall"; and a ";band director slash drum guy"; in the Spring. So, if you're comfortable infront of a band and have a degree you will definitely be more marketable.

The big cities are where its at here in the Lone Star State. Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and the Dallas / Forth Worth area have incredible programs with really smart people teaching them. You will find us Texans have an intense pride and love for our state. Although I complain about the weather, I will NEVER leave and know alot of people that feel the same way!

Hope this helps. Shoot me an email if you need some more advice on the Houston area.
Thanks for the info!

I am certified to teach both music and math. So pehaps I should check out the areas that you listed! New schools open here in VA all the time, however, the band programs are barely funded. That's acctually why I'm teaching Algebra right now. The programs that get even a modest amount of funding are taken by people who will give up the job when they die (since they are so rare here)

I have a fairly diverse background with marching/orchestral percussion and I love being in front of a band so maybe moving down there is a smart choice :)

Thanks again
Shoot me a personal message when you get serious about moving, I'll get you the important phone numbers you'll need:)

For what it's worth, I'm in a smaller metro area, Amarillo (pop. 140,000), and the percussion scene is still preferable to anywhere else in the country I've been.

Definitely the larger areas are going to have better opportunities, but even mid-size cities can offer a lot.

I like where I am, because I have a lot of playing opportunities as well as teaching opportunities.

There is definitely a lot happening in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston areas.

Email me if you have an questions.
Do you guys find that the percussion scene is happening inside the main cities themselves, or mostly in the suburbs and small cities? What is the demographic of the cities?

I've never been to texas before, so i'm not sure how your cities are laid out, but my wife is talking about like not owning a car. :) You know, biking everywhere. In places like NY and DC it's certainly easier to bike than drive anywhere due to INSANE traffic. But I've heard that everything in Texas is on a much larger scale than the rest of the world :)
Houston and Dallas are WAAAY too spread out to bike. Dallas has the DART (good metro line) and Houston is tying to get a mass transit going but it'll be a while before it's any good.
It's all about the suburbs around here man!

This is his wife:)

Are any of you familiar with the art education sector in Texas?  I will be certified to teach k-12 art, preferrably junior high.  Just like music, visual arts are sporatically funded here in VA, and support given to the art educators is highly dependent upon the administration in any given geographic area (like, here in the Shenandoah Valley, administrators are more concerned about student performance on our state tests than about a broad-range curriculum).  I'd really like to be in an area that supports a collaborative approach to teaching, and music and art are one part of that interdisciplinary approach.

Even if you don't necessarily know, do you have any people I could get in touch with who would know more about the atmosphere for visual arts in metropolitan Texas?

Thanks for your input,
";the wife";
Well, this is a Tapspace Forum first...

Hello wife,

I would say that if you are going to look for a strong music program, you will also find a well-supported art program. Generally speaking, the arts as a whole are going to be supported in Texas.

Don't get me wrong: we are all about doing well on the TAKS test (state testing), but not so much that we are going to cut funding of an art program and go completely overboard.

It seems that as you get into the job hunt per se, that you will be able to talk to a school district's Fine Arts Coordinator or Music Supervisor or Supreme Band Overlord. If they aren't the right person to ask, they should be able to direct you to the person who is.

To answer another question, in the big four metro areas (DFW, Austin, San Antonio and Houston), it really is about the suburbs. I wish I could say why, but I don't know.

Good luck!
It's a truism -- burbs = higher property taxes.  That's where you want to teach.  A metro 'burb that has large populations per high school.  Texas pays well, and has the best setups imaginable, but there are other areas...  think tempe/gilbert in the Phoenix area.  Same sitch.  Indy is similar.  Anyhow, the other thing that those areas have in common is lower cost of living.  It's all about your mortgage, man.  If you can get that lower, a lower salary isn't too bad.

In other words, you need to commute to suburban schools.

Finally, heavily tout your MATH skills.  Look for a math job, but it has to come with the perc gig.  Guarantee schools are more desperate for that than anything else.
Hi Charlie and Mrs. Nesmith,

I recently graduated from TCU in Fort Worth, TX with a BME in Percussion and now live in the Chicago area and attend NIU for conducting.  Also, I graduated in 2002 from Cypress Falls HS in Houston, TX.

As someone who has recently graduated from both HS and College as well as moved to another state, I would have to say that from what I have seen, Texas has a more widespread support for music programs in general.  Where as here in Illinois they are cutting programs, I have seen that Texas programs continue to invest large dollar amounts toward making their music programs better, namely (in my experience) band.

For example, at my former Alma Maters district (Cy-Fair ISD), when I was leaving I continued to hear about plans that were aimed at expanding the music programs, in number and square footage.  Also, in San Antonio, there are (I believe) 5 pilot high schools (city specific) that received a complete ";music building"; makeover.  They created new music buildings that were all inclusive:  practice rooms, multiple ensemble rooms (for band, orchestra, choir, mariachi [big in Texas because of the booming Hispanic population growth]), etc.  Last December I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in one of these facilities and have to say I was quite impressed!  It reminded me of a mini-Music Building. 

The competition scene for marching band has increased dramatically over the years in Houston and the DFW Metroplex (areas for which I can speak of with great certainty), as well as educational avenues as well.  Both of these areas also have great fine arts areas in the city (available for you and your students), the Houston Symphony, the Dallas Symphony (who is getting a new music director), and the Fort Worth Symphony (who has a great music director!), as well as small community orchestras and bands (as well as the Dallas Wind Symphony!).  However, the Illinois seems to have a much more widespread adoption of the community orchestra in my opinion. 

Also it seems as though the ";Percussion Director"; position is becoming more common as opposed to the 2nd or 3rd Band Director ALSO being the ";drum guy.";  I also finished teaching a year at Western Hills HS in Benbrook, TX and this was the position I had.  It included teaching in a cluster with the other band directors, and we conversed on teaching methods and tried to make as much of a consistent music experience as possible from 6th - 12th grade.

In addition to the usual marching band and concert band, when I arrived at TCU I noticed that more drumlines in Houston, participated in WGI style indoor activities, and that more Metroplex (DFW) schools did a separate drumline in the fall.  Also, I noticed, at least in my experience, that more Metroplex Percussion Programs, did more of a Percussion Ensemble style spring semester; however, more recently I've heard of more Houston programs adopting the same type of schedule.

As far as the heat...it really IS that bad!  I'm from Houston, born and raised for 18 years, and can say without a doubt, it is some of the hottest weather you will ever experience...at least in the US. ;-)  The summers are difficult to deal with in terms of summer band logistics and keeping everyone healthy, but so many programs make it work, and I wouldn't have changed one summer of my experiences out in the heat! 

Mrs. Nesmith,

In my experience, I would have to disagree slightly with what Eric said.  At the school I just finished teaching at for a year, I saw many students being pulled from ";extra-curricular"; activities in the fine arts (even gym!) in order to prepare for the TAKS test!  I find this SO disheartening, and is one of the reasons I don't wish to teach at the grade school level anymore.  Now, schools don't necessarily pull 'funding' for these types of things, but you can imagine how that might effect your enrollment or even the quality of your teaching time. 

Now, obviously each school is vastly different, especially in Texas, where the socioeconomic lines are very close and the aura of a neighborhood can change within a few blocks, but the general feeling, at least from the student side, is that Texas has for many years focused a great deal on students ";passing"; the TAKS test.  This DOES include teaching to the test regardless of what any administrator will tell you.  (This paragraph does sound a great deal biased, but I hope you can understand my frustration of going through this on the student side and recently on the teacher side.)

As far as collaboration, I can't speak to (as far the arts are concerned), however, based on my short-lived experience, because of how schools are setup in Texas (in [i]Independent[/i] School Districts, as opposed to Community School Districts) I feel that it is much easier to achieve this faster, but you will still run into the same boundaries such as time for planning, etc. 

To also respond further to Eric's comment about the suburbs, growing up in the same house for 15 years in Houston, I can say that the reason suburbs are exploding and continue to grow is that people want to get away from the ";big-city"; life.  The reasons and justifications are numerous, but without a doubt people try to escape from the (and in the case of this discussion) problems of the education system; but as we all now, this doesn't help.  We find quick fixes...but I digress.

Music has definitely grown very much in even the past 10 years in Texas and I see no reason, short-term, for it to stop.  Texas has an expanse of space left undeveloped.  In CFISD alone, much of the land that encompasses that district is still yet undeveloped leaving room for many more school systems to be built (and many more jobs to be filled!).  I also find that this is the same in the Metroplex.

Sorry to be so long-winded about this, but I saw an opportunity to share my experience from a recent graduates' perspective and thought I would throw in my two cents.  Texas is a great state and I hope to return some day and settle down, but for now, it's Chicago for me!

Oh yeah also, Texas housing is cheap!  (But stay away from that sub-prime and interest-only business...oi what a mess!)

Good luck to you and your wife!

Sorry I just wanted to say again, that I realize my post may be very one-sided, but that is my one and only experience.  So forgive me if mine is not similar to your own.  Thanks again.

Interesting perspective, Felix.

To be fair, the Texas State Senate and House voted to do away with standardized testing and has started phasing it out at the lowest grade levels this year. I'd say in a few years, it should be completely gone, in favor of ";end of course"; testing.

And Felix is right that when those tests draw near, they will start pulling kids out of recess(!) for remediation! Each building and principal is different. So when that appeared to be happening to us, we made a big deal about it and they don't try to pull our kids anymore. TAKS and concert band contest being a few weeks apart made for a good argument about not pulling kids out.
Wow Thanks for the perspective guys! (this is the husband now :) )

Well at least you kids can take band! What I mean by that, is that if a kid gets a C or D in algebra or geometry, then the next year they have to take the class double blocked. That's 1 1/2 hours of math a day ALL YEAR!  If they get an F my mid-year, they will pull them out by Christmas! And since C is the most common grade for math, most of the students in the school end up having no room to take band or anything else until their second half of high school, and by that time, they are out of shape enough that they commonly take other electives.

I recently heard our County Math Coordinator praise this system because a higher percentage of the kids are passing the algebra SOL (our state test, now required to graduate high school) What this has also done is take away the math classes we used to have to prepare the lower learning students for the jobs that they will likely  have. AKA classes that teach measurements, basic home finance, etc.

Since these tests are given 2 months before school is out (so the school can get the test results back by the end of the year) you have to cram in the material that much faster. So a lot of these kids end up learning math by rote. They don't know why things work, they just know how to solve for X. Then the very next year, they don't retain any of the info they learned. Ahhggsh

Ok, sorry for the mini rant.

Next On topic question: What are the students like in the burbs? What is their work ethic like?
Kids are kids no matter where you are. You have your kids that will do everything it takes and more with complete support from the parents, and sitting right next to them will be a kid who is only in band because their parents won't let them quit, and whose parents call and complain for every reed they have to buy and every after school practice you have:)
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