Playin’ Around With Playbook: Educator Daniel Emerson
As a studying music educator, it is so inspiring to meet renowned educators from across the country. This week, Playbook went in person to the Wisconsin Music Educators Conference and caught up with Daniel Emerson. I was fortunate enough to stream live from Playbook headquarters on Playin’ Around With Playbook to talk a little about his life experiences.
Daniel Emerson has been a band director for 15 years. Previous positions include 9 years as a middle school band director in Janesville, WI. Previous to that as Assistant Director of Bands in Mauston, WI, and Director of Bands for the Stevens Point Catholic Schools. He is now the Director at Wausau West, which began in August 2016.
Below is an excerpt from our conversation on October 28th, 2021. Click here for the full interview.
Dan is so knowledgeable and passionate about his students, and we are so grateful to have him as a friend here at Playbook!
TRISTA FORD: How do you cultivate a culture in the band room? How do you bring together your band room?
DANIEL EMERSON: I think at least in the Wausau West Band, a lot of it is based on student leadership and student choice, and having students be mentors to those younger than them. SO we’ve developed a student leadership program. A lot of things come down to that, being led by students and giving students choice around what it is that they’re playing. Giving them a lot of choice is so critical in getting that buy in from them.
TF: what are your mantras when you’re feeling low in terms of teaching with students?
DE: It’s coming back to basics, and for jazz, let’s just play something easy, and get it to swing and get it to GROOVE and get it to feel good. if we are working with something that’s a more challenging piece and we are struggling with it, or they haven’t put enough time into it on their individual pieces of the puzzle. It can feel like pulling teeth in a rehearsal situation. SO coming back more to basics and just creating music as an ensemble, so that we can have that positive feeling that we are creating something meaningful together.
TF: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far as a band director at Wausau West?
DE: Yeah, we put on a project every fall at Wausau called Bandstock. It started as a collaboration between local rock bands and our band program at Wausau West. It’s evolved over the years to mostly student led and student performed groups and we hire in professional lighting and sound and we have hd video boards…. The whole shebang! We try to make them feel like rockstars. It has a little bit of everything. This year we had Beyonce, Roy Hargrove tunes, so everything in between, and again, a lot of that is student-led performances. We also had my good friend Zach Finnegan, a jazz trumpeter player from Chicago this year. So we always try to incorporate somebody in some way, as a guest artist.
TF: Why do you think platforms in terms of the modern classroom, like Playbook, are so important today?
DE: It’s so important because you can do it from anywhere. If they [students] are out for a week, it gives them that accessibility to do those things from anywhere. That curriculum is already built out for people, so if teachers are using a learning management system.. You know, [you can] connect these pieces right to this system, so that students have that instant access to it. It is such an important piece in our current education system, and It’s going to continue to be important in that way.