Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Goddard band director Kevin Everitt and his assistant Whitney Bain roll into the Goddard music office at 6:30 a.m. to get their 68 music students ready for the football game on Friday night — but most importantly to prepare for The 39th New Mexico Pageant of Bands Marching Competition they will be entering on Oct. 20., in Albuquerque at Wilson Stadium.
As the students begin arriving for their 7-8 a.m. music class, the only one they will have that day, Everitt and Bain are looking for coffee as they try and wake up.
Students pass by and say “hi,” waving to the teachers upon entering the classroom.
Spirits are high — and why wouldn’t they be? The band has just finished first, fresh off a victory at the 2017 ENMU Green and Silver Classic, as Eastern New Mexico’s best band in classification 4A.
Their winning performance was the show tune from the Blues Brothers.
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Everitt is a Goddard alum and went to Eastern New Mexico University where he majored in band. He found his way to the trumpet and started taking lessons from a music professor at ENMU while he was a junior in high school.
Music just happened coincidentally for Everitt. At the elementary school he was attending at the time, band was a pull-out elective, meaning they pulled him out of lunch-recess to participate. Everitt’s two best friends joined band, and it took him two weeks to figure out that lunch-recess was boring without his friends.
He asked his mother if he could join band and she told him he could and that he would play the trumpet, because his brother was in band and played trumpet.
“I went to practice the very first day,” Everitt states, “it was like the coolest thing I ever experienced. I just went through and loved it.”
Everitt is in his 11th year teaching. He was a music teacher at Berrendo Middle School for five years and has been the band director at Goddard for six years.
Fun in Fundamentals
One of Everitt’s goals is to get as many kids involved in band as he can and to have them learn the things they are supposed to learn. He would like for them to be successful and to have fun while being in the band.
As a band director, Everitt prides himself on being more fundamentally sound than when he was in high school. He does different scales and exercises that help students learn.
Everitt’s experience at Berrendo helped him become a better music teacher. When Everitt started teaching at Berrendo, he was the eighth-graders’ fifth teacher in three years. Without consistent leadership, he found himself having to correct bad habits and pull along kids that didn’t buy into his program. He had to correct errors in fundamentals and show the students it takes work to be a good musician. But most importantly, he learned how to go back and fix the root of a problem instead of attacking symptoms.
Everitt explained that attacking the solution of a problem was comparable to a basketball player with a bad shot (Lonzo Ball) — instead of fixing the shot the player continues to practice shooting the same shot with more repetitions, but the form and shot never get better. The shooter never gets better because they never learned to implement the correct form to shoot better.
“There’s this myth,” Everitt said, “that a musician just wakes up and picks up an instrument, plays and they’re great. Talent can get a musician so far, but at the end of the day it is work and doing the right things every day. I learned at the middle school if you don’t fix the foundation you’re just going to be beating your head against the wall. That’s how I approach teaching.”
Everitt believes that competition is good, not from the standpoint of talking trash, but to see what his band is good at and not so good at. He believes competition is valuable from an assessment standpoint.
“I don’t try to win awards,” Everitt said. “I try to do things the right way. My entire teaching philosophy comes from the idea the foundations have to be right, the fundamentals have to be effective and that we need to do what will garner the greatest amount of success for the greatest number of kids.”
With so many kids involved in band and a limited time to teach, Everitt has come up with a way to teach his kids through research to develop a strong base and understanding of what is expected and what the band does, and try to build the skill set through effective repetition.
No competition with Roswell
There is no competition between Roswell and Goddard. Both bands do a lot of things together, for the upcoming Goddard-Roswell football game they will perform together with the middle schools on the field at the same time. Both bands will do a big concert together in the spring. At the beginning of the school year the bands will have their drum lines perform together, and last week the bands shared a bus going to the Green and Silver Classic.
“We are able to compare ourselves to them,” Everitt said. “I think it is a healthy competition. I look at the stuff he (Greg Odom) does and my kids look at the stuff they do, and we’ll say, ‘man they’re really good, we’d like to do that’, and vice versa — but not in a trash-talking way. I do think if you do the right things long enough you’ll get some wins.”
Everitt is not afraid to ask Odom how he gets his kids to do a certain move or play a certain way, and it goes both ways as Odom will ask Everitt for advice as well.
“We are friends,” Everitt said. “Our kids are friends and they went to middle school together. In the band world, the competition stuff gets left at the door. A couple of weeks ago Portales beat us and we got to look at that and ask, ‘what are they doing that we’re not?’ To me, that’s healthy competition.”
New Wave Learning
Everitt uses cutting-edge methods from research he has done to teach what he knows about neuroscience as well as learning theory. He has developed a curriculum to help develop three fundamental skills separately before combining all three.
Everitt states that a weakness in any musician is the result of three things: 1) A physical weakness: they (kids) can’t physically do what you’re asking them to do. A musician’s fingers don’t move that fast, or they don’t have enough wind power; 2) There can be a weakness in the area of literacy: I don’t know what this is? I don’t know what this note is? I don’t know what this symbol is?; and 3) There is a weakness in musicianship: I can’t communicate. I can’t hear and imagine what we (the band director) wants.
Everitt feels like a weakness in any of those areas is going to limit a student’s ability to succeed. Everitt feels like teachers make the mistake of trying to address this issue by correcting all three problems at the same time. Everitt feels it is too hard for a kid to grasp it all at once.
“If a music student is trying to do something physically,” Everitt said, “while you’re trying to get them to read, while you’re trying to get them to imagine a sound; if a student is bad at all three of them, none of them are going to get better. We isolate each fundamental skill: focusing primarily on the imagination (audiation) — thinking in music and isolate the basic physical skill and add in the reading and literacy a little bit later. When we have weakness in students we look in those three areas first. Then we develop exercises to address that particular weakness.”
This starts in the sixth-grade at Berrendo and goes into high school.
Living his dream
“I decided when I was 15 years old,” Everitt said, “that I wanted to be a band director.”
Mike Lee, Everitt’s high school band director at Goddard, had a huge influence on him as well as ENMU’s band director, Dustin Seifert.
Everitt probably doesn’t realize how much the Goddard way has rubbed off on himself as a student, and now that he is a teacher — how he is instilling the same principals into his students: come to school every day and do your job. Everitt believes if his students do the right things, day in and day out, the wins will come, and good things will happen to them in school, band and life.
Who knows, one day one of his students might come back and be the Goddard band director like he dreamed of.