Her latest accomplishment comes as recognition from fellow band directors. In April, she was elected to membership in the American School Band Directors Association National Conference held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Smith said, “The president-elect of the association nominated me. He is Blair Callaway and is the band director at Heritage High School in Ringgold. It is such an honor to be elected to the ASBDA because I know so many people who are a part of this and I respect their program so much.
“Blair Calloway has such a fine, fine band program and just to know that he thought enough of me to recommend me is very humbling. Some great band directors are members of this group and they really do push to make quality music programs in their school.”
According to a press release, directors are chosen on the basis of their teaching experience, the success of their music program and the recommendation of members of the organization.
The association consists of 1,000 band directors from the U.S. and the group’s major objective is to establish and maintain quality instrumental programs in schools nationwide.
Smith is adamant that band is more than music, and music is more than an expression of sound.
“I think band is important for this age group because it’s not just a musical class. It’s so much more than that, it’s life skills. It definitely teaches responsibility and a friendly competitiveness. It’s friendships and these kids are like one big family. They feel safe here.
“They are bonding and they feel successful and for a lot of them they don’t get the support at home so they feel like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I’m doing something right here and someone is giving me praise. This feels good.’”
She continued, “People don’t understand that this is just not music, while music is wonderful and I hope they do learn to appreciate quality music and I hope we are making beautiful music, but that is not all they are making. They are making memories for life.”
An essential part of Smith’s teaching style is to continually require the best from each student.
“I have really high expectations and I think kids are kids. If you raise the bar high, the majority of them will actually reach it. It is just basically to push them to be the best they can be and not to settle for mediocre.
“I think by taking them to national competitions where they get to see and hear other bands and see how they match up against other schools, that’s where they learn we are doing something great here.”
She knows firsthand the influence an educator can make in a student’s life. Smith credits her high school band director, Ron Becton, as being the teacher who challenged and supported her most.
“I think he saw some talent in me; he pushed me and guided me toward college scholarship auditions. He actually took me to auditions. He is the one who drove me to Jacksonville State University for an audition and that’s where I got a full ride and I have loved it ever since. He was a huge role model and mentor to me.”
While the band’s past performances have ranged from the Heritage Music Festival in Hawaii to the Midwest International Band Clinic in Chicago, Smith continues to look forward.
“This year we are hoping to compete nationally at Disney in April. The kids will do a parade through the Magic Kingdom and then our drum line, percussion ensemble and honor band will compete.”