"MIPC Interview Session" African American Female Band Directors
The general trend in music education is the career being a male dominated field. The level of musicianship, not based on gender, and the era of career minded women, it is only right for the career field of music education to have equal representation. This article features one trail blazer, amongst a growing trend of African-American Women Band Directors- Mrs. Tomisha Price-Brock. Mrs. Price-Brock is the Owner/CEO @ Prodigious Concepts, LLC Music Education, Consulting, & Professional Development. The Music Initiative Project and Consortium is dedicated to featuring trail-blazers in music education, and this interview is a presentation of valuable insight and information on this positive outlook of this career. MIPC hopes that this will inspire young women to pursue this career.
Tell our audience about your musical and educational background.
"I started singing in my church choir at age 6. I started playing the clarinet at age 10. I graduated high school at age 16, and hold a Bachelor of Music degree from Virginia State University (c/o 2005), a Master of Music Education degree from Norfolk State University (c/o 2011), and I am currently finishing up my PhD in Music Education and Educational Research Methodology at The University of North Carolina-Greensboro (will graduate in December)."
Who or what inspired you to pursue music in your life and career?
"I have a lot of musicians and music teachers in my family; but I come from a very supportive family, that would have supported any career path I chose. My mom always pushed my brother and I to try new things, give back to the community, and generally help others. If I didn't pursue my career in music, I would have become a Bone Specialist/Sports Medicine Specialist or a Forensic Scientist."
How has being in music impacted your life?
"Music allowed me the opportunity to finance my education, as well as meet many key mentors and celebrities worldwide. The gift of music has allowed me the chance to help many others pursue their education, and use band/music ed as a platform to their various advanced degrees and careers. My learning experience has also allowed me the opportunity to learn about and appreciate all cultures and all types of music.
Describe some of the challenges and triumphs of being an African American female HBCU Band Director?
"Some of the challenges continue to be financial support to match that of our male counterparts in the field. Additionally, we are still often passed over for positions, because programs or administrators "aren't ready" to have a woman as their successor, or in the head position. The triumphs include making history and breaking through the glass ceiling in many of our nation's historic programs, both in higher ed and in the K-12 realm. Additionally, I think our unique power as women to nurture others allows us the ability to train and "raise" our students with compassion and a 'family style' atmosphere. This alone helps our students take the knowledge we impart in them in our band rooms, and transcends it across all disciplines and all career paths they may follow upon leaving us."
What are some of the requirements pertaining to music auditions for the CAU Program?
"While, I am no longer at CAU (I have taken a position at another University), the requirements at CAU are knowledge and performance of major scales (include minor scales if you plan to major or minor in music), a prepared piece (showcasing lyrical and technical abilities), and sight-reading. For more information on CAU auditions, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For my new program, requirements are similar (performance of scales, prepared piece, sight-reading, and the demonstration of knowledge and understanding of music terminology). I will meet students where they are if they show potential, and will build them up to meet and exceed my standards."
What is your perspective on the importance of teaching fundamental tone/proper performance concepts in high school band? And, how does this affect a collegiate band program?
"I feel it is basic education, and critical to quality/great performances. I feel this concept starts well before high school. The foundation should be taught in middle school. I think the key ingredient to any successful program, is first having a clear vision for how you want your program to look and sound, and being able to convey that vision to others through backwards planning (beginning with the end in mind...How do I want my program to look and sound by a certain time period, and how do I make it happen?). Additionally, incorporating a daily lesson plan or pacing guide for your rehearsals, to clearly indicate what will be covered and what is expected of your students each day. Do not discount your technique study, etudes, and warm-up period. Developing a clear tone, with proper support and intonation, as well as being able to maintain a steady tempo while performing are basic beginning elements, but important to repeat over and over, and incorporate among all levels! The success of incorporation or lack of incorporation of these basic fundamental techniques DIRECTLY IMPACTS the quality of collegiate band programs."
Give an overview of the impact you and your staff have had on music students at CAU.
"While at CAU, we successfully rebuilt the program from 6 to 65 members in less than 2 months (prior to the 2017-2018 academic year). We also increased the overall quality of performance in both marching band and concert band, and increased the level of difficulty of music performed from grade 3 to grade 4-5-6. Sight-reading ability and reading fluency greatly improved amongst all members while I was there, and continues to improve. One of the biggest accomplishments, was rebuilding the bridge between band and athletics, and reigniting campus and community support for the program."
What are some future plans for your new music program?
"Future plans for my current program and those I will assist this year through clinics and other workshops, include restoring or increasing quality of the overall program, increasing recruitment and enrollment, increasing the graduation rate of music majors and non majors affiliated with the programs, and getting programs to think outside of the box with innovative performances, and when reaching out for grants, sponsorships, and other forms of financial support and community service."
Mrs. Price-brock we wish you the best on your educational endeavors, and you are truly a source of inspiration for the future of music education. Continue to excel and be a change agent in music education.