Welcome to our featured musician and band instructor series! Each month, we’ll be highlighting a professional musician or band director (some featured may be both!) We hope it will give you a behind the scenes perspective of teaching and performing music and that you find inspiration in the insight and advice from our music experts.
This monthly series will focus on band directors and professional musicians in the local region. A main goal of this initiative is to inspire younger and less experienced musicians in their passion to play an instrument and develop their skills to compose, perform, and teach others in the future. You will be hearing from a broad range of musicians who will have different styles, hobbies, and professions- providing a variety of information to help steer the passions of young, budding musicians!
Featured Musician of the Month: Joe Getsi
Joe Getsi has been teaching music for 15 years, but has been actively playing music for 49 years. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Tennessee Technological University and is currently the Director of Bands at the University School of Nashville. Below, Joe discusses his musical background and shares experiences of his career and performance life.
- Please share a brief overview of your background and education in music, as well as which instrument(s) you play.
I started playing music professionally in clubs during my third year of playing (sophomore year of high school). During college I worked at Opryland and in various clubs in Middle and East Tennessee. After college I played professionally on the road with various bands, worked on a cruise ship for 14 years as a musician and later a featured performer. I then moved back to Tennessee where I worked at Opryland and the General Jackson for 6 years. Since then I have been teaching and continue to play about 2 or 3 days a week professionally.
- Were you in a school band as a child?
Yes, from 9th grade through 12th.
- What are some of the most significant differences (both positive and negative) you notice in bands today?
When I was in school I played every day of school. At the private school where I teach now band meets every other day. That is not enough time to learn an instrument unless you are doing a lot of outside practicing, which is hard to get kids to do.
- How long have you been band director at your current school and what attracted you to the position?
This is my 15th year. I have always felt that professional musicians at some point in their career owe it to the younger generation to share the knowledge they have accumulated over the years.
- Share a favorite memory you have from teaching and/or teaching.
I don’t really have a particular moment that stands out, more like a lot of little things like the improvement you see in a young student, or the light in their eyes when they finally get it, notes from former students that tell you how you helped shape their lives or made an impact on them in some way, things like that.
- What is your favorite instrument to teach and why?
I enjoy teaching woodwinds the most, probably the clarinet, because that is the instrument I majored on in college and am most familiar with, but I am pretty comfortable teaching most brass and woodwinds.
- Describe your favorite music teacher growing up and how he or she influenced your eventual career in music education.
I had 2 favorites, my junior high teacher in 9th grade and the high school teacher I had in grades 10-12. The first made me count rhythms and really held me accountable. The second was just a really good musician and conductor and showed me how to appreciate music of all types.
- What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a band director?
Poor instrumentation is a constant challenge I deal with. Private schools are not generally big enough to have a very big band and I find myself constantly having to rewrite or edit arrangements to make them work for my instrumentation.
- Can you share a time where you were particularly proud of a student (or students) in your band?
I have one trombonist that does not take private lessons, but still comes to the band room after school almost everyday to practice his band parts and other music outside of what we are doing in band that he is interested in. I feel like he is into music for all the right reasons, because it is fun and rewarding.
- How do you keep your students motivated?
Mostly, by playing quality music that challenges them, but is not so hard that they can’t pull it off.
- What advice do you have for young musicians who are just starting to learn how to play an instrument?
Learning to play an instrument is a lifelong endeavor that takes time and patience and those fundamentals that their teachers constantly drill them on are important, just like the fundamentals they would learn in any sport. The more you learn the more fun playing an instrument becomes, so don’t get frustrated; stick with it.
- In addition to teaching music, do you also perform? If so what type of music and at what kind of venues?
I did not start teaching until I was 48 years old. Before I started teaching I made my living as a professional musician playing woodwinds (saxes, clarinets, and flutes) and singing. My teaching schedule limits me to playing that does not require as much prep time. I tend to shy away from engagements like broadway shows that might require a lot of rehearsal time, or road work that requires a lot of travel time. I tend to do a lot of wedding ceremonies, receptions, corporate gigs, strolling or dixieland gigs, and other playing situations that require less rehearsal/practice time. I still play almost every week, mostly on weekends and average 2 to 3 gigs a week.
- Who are some of your musical influences (past and present)?
On the clarinet I was influenced by Pete Fountain and Eddie Daniels the most. Eddie Daniels also influenced me with his flute and sax playing. James Galway was a flutist I listened to a lot as well as Hubert Laws on the jazz side. I’ve listened to so many different sax players that it would be hard to mention them all, but 5 that I really liked were Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods (alto), and George Coleman, King Curtis, and Harold Land (tenor).
- Band director careers often come with long working hours. How do you find a healthy balance between personal/family life, your own music goals, and teaching?
At the private school where I teach there is no marching band. I think if there was I would not be able to do as much professional musician work as I do. My 2 children are grown and on their own and I am divorced, so I don’t have as many family commitments as I used to. I exercise before I come to work, and seem to get just enough practice time in to cover my gigs. I have very little free time, but try to make the best of my summers to catch up on home upkeep, personal projects, and increased practice time on my instruments.
- Do you have any advice for those who are interested in becoming professional musicians and/or music instructors?
If you don’t really love it, don’t do it.
- What are some of your hobbies outside of band and music?
Exercise (walking, biking, weight training, hiking, swimming), fishing occasionally, and I like good movies, and traveling to see family.
As both a performer and a teacher of music, Joe offers practical, honest advice for anyone interesting in starting or continuing their musical journey. Thank you Joe for sharing your stories and giving us a glimpse into your life as an instructor and performer!
- Challenge yourself- but set realistic goals. The fun comes in reaching them!
- Commit- stick with it and keep practicing to master your instrument and hone your skills
- Make a plan- balance is important when prioritizing your passions.
- Do what you love- carefully consider your future in music to determine if you want to become a professional player, teacher, or even something else entirely!
Do you have any burning questions you’d like to see answered from future featured band instructors or performers? Feel free to let us know by email or drop a line on our Facebook page!
Written by Laura Whitlock