Music Man

Band teacher inspires his students in more than just music.

Elizabeth Cornell, Journalism Staff

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“Wait before you go, let’s take a selfie real quick, it’s sort of my thing.” I was asked this as I walked out of Mr. Songer’s Middle School band room last Friday morning. This is just one of the wacky and fun things he does in his classroom to really connect with his students and it’s no wonder he’s favorited by many.

Working at Middle School West for nineteen years, Mr.Songer is a band teacher who truly inspires his students. He humbly describes his teaching style as just wanting to develop a relationship with his students. He continued by saying he understands that for some, Middle School is one of the toughest few years of their lives, so he wants to be able to help them in every way possible. Mr. Songer added several times throughout the interview, that it’s about the kids. His rule in the classroom is, To work hard and have fun, and if we’re not doing that, then we’re doing it wrong.” One of his former band students, Riley Wentinc described him as goofy, funny, entertaining and just never having a dull moment.

Mr.Songer isn’t just some average teacher, though, he has something much better, his bands. Since 2004, Mr.Songer and his wife, Heidi Songer have been working with middle schoolers in District 112 creating these after school bands. Their most popular group is Garage Band and is the basis of what started the whole program. Inspired after watching the movie “School Of Rock”, they decided to make a band similar to the one they saw on the big screen. Before they knew it, they had approximately 20 people asking to be a part of this, and due to the program’s success, they decided to expand it. Mr.Songer said that it was perfect for kids who wanted to sing, but just didn’t want to sing Beethoven. Within each band there’s a variety of music to choose, from Taylor Swift in Country Bluegrass to, Paramore in Garageband. Everything is chosen based on a variety of era’s. Mr.Songer explains that he chooses music that might challenge certain groups or help develop certain skill levels within the group. Most importantly, trying to find something that everybody enjoys.

Mr. Songer has always been interested in music. He began by playing the trombone in 5th grade and at that time, he was more into listening to music then actually playing it. His turning point was when he heard “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant in his school gym class, and absolutely loved it. He immediately turned on the radio after school that day and discovered the top 40, and that’s when he found his love in music. In high school, he was in band, jazz band, and show choir. He said he went to the band room every day during his classes to just hang out with his friends, play music, and bother the band teacher. Mr.Songer laughed when he said that he would practice more during the school day then at home. He realized at that time that he loved how much music brought everyone together. A few years later, he discovered how much he liked working with kids when he got a job after school teaching them how to bowl. That’s when he discovered that he wanted to become a teacher.

“I very quickly learned it’s about the kids” said Mr.Songer in response to how he’s grown as a teacher. He added that he wants to find new and creative ways to teach them, but he did much more than that. Angela Torntore a guitar student and former member of Garageband said, “He’s a very good listener and is good to talk to, he also helped me grow in my love of music.” She also mentioned that he set up an amazing gig for her at Dung Brothers this summer and it was one of the most important moments in her life. This isn’t the first time that he had an impact on his students lives, guitar student and former member of Garageband, Emma Larsen said, that he’s the best teacher she’s ever experienced. Riley Wentinc particularly said, “He dedicates a lot of time during and after school and is really dedicated to students’ lives.”

Garageband is expanding and becoming an amazing program for many kids. Mr Songer describes the people who join as incredible people who either love music or are just very curious about what it’s like to do this sort of thing. It’s a great opportunity to be part of a band without having to get all the equipment. Not to mention, people benefit so much from the program. Emma Larsen says,“for sure you benefit and learn so much from it, he isn’t just a mentor, but also a close friend and creates a real connection with you.” She continued by saying that he creates amazing opportunities and gigs for her, and as a joke, she even calls him her
“weird uncle.”

Mr.Songer has changed so many lives and creates confidence in kids that they didn’t even know they had. He’s an extraordinary teacher and is so dedicated and passionate about what he does. He helps develop kids’ abilities in music and allows them to find a passion in something they love and that’s why they could call him, Music Man.   

  

 

 

 

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