Middle School Band Director Inspires Students to “Feel the Magic”
When Tiffany Hitz was in high school, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a music or math teacher. “I just wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I was challenged in so many areas I was passionate about and I knew I wanted to teach one of those.”
In the end, a practical decision helped her decide. “As it turns out, there are not a lot of math education scholarships and there are a lot of music scholarships … especially if you play the French horn,” she said. It’s a decision that she doesn’t regret. And she continues to perform as a French horn player.
Tiffany, pictured above in the center, is now the director of the middle school band at Robinson Secondary School. She continues to learn and practice music, hoping that her students will see how much she loves music and that she is still learning and growing as a musician and a teacher.
“While I have a career in music, it’s not as a professional musician,” she says. “My career is as a teacher. While music is part of my job, it’s also part of my personal life. As a horn player, I generally sit in the middle of the band. Hearing all of the music happening around me and knowing the musicians around me care about me just because I am there…I want students to know that community part of playing music too, it’s really special.”
The community built in a band, and the relationships and acceptance that you build, Tiffany thinks, is “pervasive in any music group.” The arts allow students to try things within a safety net. “If it didn’t go as well as you wanted it to, there’s a way to combat the negative self-talk; to say ‘I didn’t take a big enough breath’ or ‘my valve was sticky;’ it wasn’t necessarily ‘me,’” she explained. “But if it was beautiful: there’s a space to take ownership. It’s because you feel safe doing it, or are working toward feeling safe.”
Especially for teenagers in middle school, Tiffany appreciates how band can allow a student to “open up in a different way.”
Even if they aren’t considering becoming professional musicians, Tiffany hopes her students realize music can always be a part of their lives. And it can help them prepare for many different careers.
“Music teaches everything. Every life skill — problem-solving, perseverance, diligence, goal setting, taking small steps to reach goals — middle school band allows a student to do all those things in a team setting,” she said. “It really is like functioning in another language. You track notes and rhythms and synthesize a million things all together.”
Additionally, learning music can last a lifetime. “You’re never done. That’s the beauty and the curse of it,” Tiffany said. When a skill or a composition gets hard, she says you have to push through. “There’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, and after that rainbow, there's another rainbow with another pot of gold,” she said about building skills. “It’s not about being perfect, it’s about [continually] being better. I want students to know that I still feel that magic. It doesn’t go away. It just gets better if you keep believing in yourself and just stick with it.”
On Friday, December 22, Tiffany was announced by her college band director (pictured above at left) as one of eight Legion of Honor recipients from the John Philip Sousa Foundation.
“It is overwhelming in the most beautiful way,” she says about the recognition. “It’s not that I’m particularly special, it’s that I’ve been put in situations where I’ve been given the opportunity to be noticed. I feel like I’m receiving it for lots of people. I am a product of all the interactions that I’ve had; and all the teachers, colleagues, and students I’ve had.”
“For as long as I can remember, I have been guided by teachers who helped me believe in possibility,” she told Bandworld Magazine. “Their actions helped me experience how music education positively impacts a life and they shared their belief that I could help inspire the next generation of musicians.”
Robinson Principal Tracey Phillips says the school community is “beyond lucky” to have Tiffany as a teacher. “Her dedication to students, staff, and the community is evident through her passion, enthusiasm, and a vigor that sets her apart from others,” Principal Phillips said. “Tiffany is committed to reaching, challenging, and preparing students for success in school and life.”