Forward March

Garfield Band recovers from a month without a teacher.

On January 18th, the Garfield Band program was thrown off its beat.

Forced to leave due to a family emergency, former Band Director Tomisha Price-Brock became the second Garfield band leader to resign in under twelve months.

While administrators scrambled to secure a long-term substitute, band members were forced to endure weeks of unstructured classes taught by unqualified teachers. Junior Henry Neiman, a member of the Garfield marching band, describes that time as a long string of wasted class periods.

“There was about a month where it was just study hall, a free period,” Neiman said. “We all got together and decided that until someone bailed us out and got us a teacher, we’re not doing anything — because we just couldn’t.”

These weeks of inactivity came at a cost. Unable to carry out daily rehearsals, the marching band was forced to stay home while the girls basketball team went to the state championship. Neiman worries that the lost time will continue to hobble the band well into the future.

“It’ll probably take a year or two for us to get back to where we were,” Neiman said. “We’re definitely back on track, but we’re nowhere near what we used to be. The rest of the year is completely up in the air.”

To Neiman, the lengthy gap between Price-Brock’s resignation and the appointment of a long-term sub is indicative of a larger problem in the way Garfield treats its band program.

“We felt like no one remembered us and no one cared about us,” Neiman said. “It was a pretty big blow to our notion of how people thought of us as a band.”

But administrators insist that the month-long teacher vacancy was not meant to punish the Garfield band.

“Most people don’t understand that there’s a hiring process, that we have to follow certain rules,” said Assistant Principal Katrina Hunt. “We can’t just hire someone off the street — they have to go through the process of an application, they have to get a background check. That takes several weeks.”

Though the band now has a long-term sub, administrators have faced obstacles in hiring a full-time replacement for next year. The hiring process became much more difficult after the district announced severe budget cuts in the 2019-2020 school year. Administrators began to conduct interviews for a new band director as early as February, but they were forced to take down the job posting to ensure that the position would be available to displaced teachers from elsewhere in the district. It remains unclear whether Garfield’s new band director will be a fresh hire, or whether they will transfer in from another Seattle high school.

Hunt hopes to reopen the band teacher position before the end of the school year. In the meantime,  Hunt       

encourages band families not to worry.

“A lot of times parents just say, ‘get a band teacher!’” Hunt said. “Easier said than done! You want somebody that’s musically talented in front of your kids, and I take that very seriously.”