, 2014

Behind the Scenes:

Working with teenage musicians keeps Spiers young

by Shannon Rice

While most people working in schools for a number of years would admittedly grow tired of working with teenagers, that is certainly not the case for Lancaster High School band director Robbie Spiers.

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Robbie Spiers

“I enjoy the kids! That is the most fulfilling thing about my job, being there every day with some of the best kids in the county. They are enthusiastic, positive, and hard working. It keeps me young- being with them every day,” says Spiers.

This will be Spiers’ 28th year as director of the LHS band.

“I took the job at Lancaster High School in the summer of 1985, and have been there ever since. I was fresh out of school at JMU, 22 years old, and very green, but excited to be teaching what I loved,” says Spiers.

His own musical journey began much earlier. He started taking trumpet lessons as a fourth-grader in preparation for entering the fifth-grade band. He was also very involved in his church’s children’s choir.

“It was from that point that I began to enjoy performing, in various capacities: singing, piano and trumpet. The experiences in middle school band and high school band made me realize that this was my niche and the route I wanted to take, because this was where my true gift was,” says Spiers.

He plays all instruments, but excels at the trumpet with almost 40 years of experience. He also plays the keyboard at church, in a contemporary Christian band sometimes playing percussion. Additionally Spiers sings and directs the choir at Kilmarnock Baptist Church.

“As long as I’m making music, I enjoy it all the time,” he says.

As band director, he is responsible for taking each student from the level they are when they arrive at LHS in the ninth grade and making them better players. This includes learning to play all major scales, learning to play their instruments in the entire range, learning to play with emotion, feeling, as well as listening across the band to make sure that their sound is not too loud or too soft in comparison with the overall band.

As far as performance preparation goes, Spiers readies his students for football game halftime shows including music, movement, flag routines; five to seven parades a year, in and around the area and state; a Christmas/Winter Concert, a Spring Festival concert, and an end of year Spring concert. The band also plays at the LHS graduation.

Other responsibilities include keeping track of and organizing all music and the care, storage and inventory of band uniforms.

Among Spiers’ least favorite duties is fundraising.

“This is the one aspect that has nothing to do with making music, but has everything to do with having equipment, opportunities, and a good band. Without proper funding, the band would not have the opportunities to do what it does. Going places, playing on good instruments and having pretty uniforms. I dislike all the receipt writing, all the deposits, all the counting of money, all the delivery of products. But with every great job, comes things that you have to do to, that aren’t fun, that make the entire organization more successful,” says Spiers.

Aside from the duties assigned as part of the job description, Spiers has a number of goals for his students. First and foremost Spiers wants his students to grow to love music, appreciate music, and experience music.

“Many of these kids will never play their instrument after they graduate- but they will always have the experience of performing at a high level, and experiencing the emotions involved in making music,” he says.

Additionally, Spiers would like them to grow as young adults by working as a part of a collective group while also realizing the responsibility and dedication it takes to produce something fulfilling.

“It isn’t all about music, it is more about preparing them to face life after graduation, and face life making sound decisions, and then acting responsibly to have success,” Spiers says.

Spiers adds that cooperation is the most important skill for his students to learn.

“This idea that we all need to cooperate and hold our end of the job correlates to many areas of life. We all have jobs to do, and it is our responsibility to do those jobs, play those parts, so that it benefits the entire group, not just our section,” says Spiers.

As far as musical selections go, he says the LHS band covers it all.

“We pretty much hit all styles during the course of a year. Some they enjoy, and some they don’t, but they at least are exposed to it, and appreciate it,” he says.

The LHS Red Devils’ next performance will be May 17 during the Spring Showcase Concert.

“We will have all 115 kids on stage at one time, performing together,” he says.

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