Assistant band director’s career is more than just music

Photo+by+Savannah+Burchfiel

Photo by Savannah Burchfiel

Trent Thompson

Striding out the band hall doors, with dedication and determination fueling his steps, assistant band director Evan VanDoren looks down at his iPad for the time. It’s 4:05 p.m. and band rehearsal begins at 4:15 p.m. He looks up from his iPad and inhales deeply. The air is fresh and clean like the air of a perfect fall day. The sky is blue with some pure white clouds taking space. As he passes several band kids heading towards the blacktop, the practice grounds for the marching band, he thinks of a hundred things he can do to make them all better. Eager to start the rehearsal, he switches on his microphone and announces at 4:10 p.m. that rehearsal starts in five minutes.

VanDoren teaches several bands at Cedar Park High School. This includes the marching band, The Wind Symphony and the Jazz Ensemble. The start of his career is inspired by much more than just deciding to be a band director.

“My dad grew up in a really bad part of Philadelphia,” VanDoren said. “In order to get him off the streets, my grandmother forced him to be a part of something called Drum and Bugle Corps. Without something that gave that kind of discipline, my dad says he would either be in jail or dead, which is pretty significant. He credits it for basically saving his life.”

After VanDoren’s father aged out at 21 years old for DCI, Drum Corps International, he taught other drum corps as a hobby. He ended up being very successful at it. The young VanDoren got the opportunity to be taught by his dad’s former students

“It was amazing to see the kind of impact my teachers were able to make,” VanDoren said. “I decided I wanted to become a band teacher because I like music, and I like the idea of being able to impact people the way my dad impacted the people he taught.”

VanDoren got a degree in music education at Butler University in Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the home of the marching arts and Grand Nationals. Going to school there played a key role in his development as a band teacher. After going to the university for four years, he got a job at Cedar Park as an assistant band director.

“Going to school in Indianapolis allowed me to be around some really good band programs,” VanDoren said. “I got a lot of experience teaching before I became an actual band teacher.”

Growing up, VanDoren’s parents didn’t push him to be in any specific kind of activities. However, he was forced to do something and he always chose music over anything else. VanDoren played piano at a young age, was in youth group choirs and did theater that involved singing.

“I’ve always been around music,” VanDoren said. “I’ve always liked it for some reason and gravitated towards it. I was moderately successful at it so I continued doing it.”

VanDoren didn’t always teach the marching band. In fact, this is his first year doing it. Last year he taught third band, now called Symphonic band, and currently teaches second band, now called the Wind Symphony. This is a big step up in his career.

“It’s exciting and it’s nerve racking,” VanDoren said. “What makes it easier is that this is a very supportive place. Supportive kids, families and colleagues. I’m really lucky to work with Mr. Chavez, Mr. Robb and Mr. Wessels because not only are they talented, they’ve always got my back and I’ve got theirs.”

Before VanDoren’s career started, he was one of the drum majors for a DCI group called Carolina Crown for one year and marched in it for several years.

“I was a Crown at a very special time,” VanDoren said. “When I was younger [age 14] I didn’t want anything to do with Crown because they were so bad, then two years later I became a part of them. When I was in it, Crown started to get good because of the people and the really good teachers that were around. When I aged out and was the drum major in 2007-2008, the drum core got fourth place in the world championship, which was the highest placement the band has ever gotten in its history at that time.”

VanDoren has had some very special memories in drum corps.

“Most of my experiences with drum core are positive,” VanDoren said. “I started working with Carolina Crown at sixteen and grew up with the people that stuck around until we aged out. It was very family oriented and we all got older together.”

In VanDoren’s career, he’s had plenty of difficult moments being a high school band director. For example, when he and the band came home late from a football game, there was something he forgot to do for the next day which was for a band competition. Feeling sick and losing his voice, he had to do his work until 2 a.m. and come back the next day.

“Looking back on it I don’t really regret it, I just had to work really hard,” VanDoren said. “I would never want to give up the kind of impact I have on kids and the community. I’ve always said I love this job and I’m going to do it for a very long time. If your heart is in it for the right reasons, then it’s worth it.”