What it Takes to Build a Successful Music Program | An Interview with Paul Shimmons

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What it Takes to Build a Successful Music Program | An Interview with Paul Shimmons

March 13, 2019

paul shimmons

Over the past few weeks and months we’ve shared a few posts from a conversation we had with Paul Shimmons. Paul is the Music Director at Farwell Area Schools and has been a Music Director for over 25 years. One thing that Paul is known for is how he uses technology in different ways to improve his program. He even has his own blog about it and has been featured in a national magazine.

Our most recent posts have focused on the specific ways he uses technology such as using it on a day-to-day basis in the classroom and using it to improve his communication with students, parents, and other music directors. This one will focus less on that and will give his responses to a few questions that we asked him about building a successful music program.

Before we dig into that, though, we need to go to the core of why Paul decided to become a band director in the first place. This is part of the reason why he’s been able to build such a great program.

When he was in high school he realized how much he enjoyed making music and helping others do the same. His two band directors, Mr. Harold Cornhill and Mr. Ronald Smith, had a great impact on him. Knowing he needed to find a career he decided to follow in the footsteps in the men who helped shape him into who he is today. He says that their examples of how to be, first and foremost, amazing people and then outstanding teachers had a profound impact on him.

Now that we know why he decided to become a music director, here are a few questions we asked about building a successful program.

What does success mean to you?

Success is having a program full of students who learn so much more about themselves through music. If my students come out as better people for being in my program, I am very happy. I hope that they become lifelong music makers and that they pass that on to their kids.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

The biggest challenges I’ve faced are students and parents who don’t want to work hard to be successful and are ok with settling for mediocrity. A lack of funding is also a challenge that I’ve faced.

What advice would you give to new band directors?

1. Get connected with mentors close by because you NEED people who are able to look you in the face and talk you through situations. You also need to connect with other teachers across the world who you can learn from even if you never meet face to face.

2. Always be pushing to the next level. Push your students to work harder than they ever imagined they could. Don’t allow them to settle.

3. Realize and come to grips with the fact that what happens in your classroom is YOUR responsibility. If you don’t like something, then change it.

4. Realize that we can’t control EVERYTHING and save every student. They have to WANT to be there and WANT to excel.

5. Parents and the Administration don’t understand what music educators do, so educate them.


If you’re a new music director or if you just need a refresher, take the advice Paul gave and apply it to your program.

As you can see from his experiences, there’s no perfect music program and there’s going to be struggles. As long as you encourage your students to be the best they can be and help them become better people overall, your program is already a success.

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