Marching Mules teaching assistants gain real-world experience

The UCM marching band teaching assistants took their positions for different reasons but share one thing: the opportunity for experience.

The job of the Marching Mules teaching assistants is to help the students and teach them as if they were the band directors themselves.

The four teaching assistants are Zach Dennis, Abby Kaiser, Shelby Rouse and Solara Martin.

Dennis, senior music education major, said he felt inspired to participate in marching band after seeing students march his eighth-grade year.

After starting his position last year, he said there have been a number of challenges.

For example, last year he said the marching band was understaffed and the TAs had to juggle several tasks at once.

“It’s been challenging, but the reward is greater than the challenge,” he said.

Dennis said the hands-on experience is his reward because he is able to work as a band director and help the students.

“Helping people get better at marching and music is what I aim to do at life,” he said.

Dennis said the experience he gets is helpful because he is able to use the prior knowledge given to him from his past directors and assistants.

Kaiser, senior vocal music education major, said she’s been participating in marching band since her freshman year of high school.

“I am both an instrumentalist and vocalist and have always loved both,” she said.

Kaiser said marching band was her way of being active and doing what she loved at the same time.

“It was something I could put my energy into and not only hear the outcome, but I could also see the outcome and end results,” she said.

Though this year is her first year in the teaching assistant position, Kaiser said she’s not only gained a great experience but an amazing family.

“The biggest challenge for me is learning how to differentiate between being a friend and being a leader,” she said.

Kaiser said since she already knew and had been friends with a lot of the members, it’s taken her time to become more assertive and overcome the worry of hurting someone’s feelings.

“It has definitely become easier throughout the season,” she said.

Because she wants to be a music teacher, Kaiser said this position will give her a chance to get her “feet wet.”

“This will be my career,” she said. “Whether it be directing my own band, conducting my own choir or teaching the little ones, I want to teach music.”

Rouse, junior bachelor of arts in music major, said marching band is like a second home to her because of the teamwork atmosphere.

This year is Rouse’s first year as a teaching assistant, but she’s played a part in the Marching Mules since her freshman year of college. She said the position has been a learning experience.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot of skills that help me communicate more effectively, act more professional, and address situations in a more proactive and efficient way,” she said.

Rouse said the biggest challenge for her was knowing when to step in and when to stand back.

“Yes, a teaching assistant is there to assist and take charge, but there’s a point when you have to let the section leaders or the band members themselves figure out what is wrong and work together to fix it,” she said.

Rouse said this position is an opportunity to gain professional development and leadership experience even though she will not be using it for a marching band career but rather a career in musicology.

“I am a firm believer that regardless of what you plan to do in the future, you can always gain something from any opportunity thrown at you,” she said.

Martin, junior music performance major, said she joined marching band because of the atmosphere it creates at football games and the people in it.

This is Martin’s first year as a teaching assistant. She said it’s been challenging being in a position overseeing people her own age, but what matters the most to her is that the teaching assistants are just as much members of the band as everyone else.

“You definitely learn a lot in this position about what it means to be a peer leader,” Martin said.

Martin said she wants to gain leadership experience with this position and learn the skills of running sectionals and full band rehearsals.

Martin said she would also like to gain experience that can be applied to her own career and looks forward to the rest of the season with the band.

“There is experience in a sense of actually doing the job, but also the experience of learning some life lessons that can be applied to everything,” she said.

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