Park City High School band teacher named Jazz Educator of the Year

Chris Taylor, the band instructor at Park City High School, was recently named the Jazz Educator of the Year by the Utah Bandmasters Association.
Carolyn Webber/Park Record |

Chris Taylor cannot imagine his life without music. With both parents as musicians and music teachers, he likes to joke that he was born singing. At 5-years-old, he attempted to play his dad’s bass trombone.

Years later, the Utah Bandmasters Association announced the Park City High School band teacher as Jazz Educator of the Year. This is the second time in four years that he has been recognized with the award. Four educators in Utah were named as recipients this year.

In order to be given the award, Taylor said, the band must perform flawlessly at both the region and state competitions during the previous year’s season. He attributes the success of the band to his students, who pushed past trials last year after one of its members died two and a half weeks before going to state. A sophomore stepped in to fill his position as a bass player.

“That was devastating to the band,” he said. “But that band played with so much passion at state. It was pretty powerful, so I’m extremely proud of that award for those kids, because that truly was a tough time and the kids found healing through music.”

Taylor said that after receiving the award in January and reflecting on the team that made it all possible, he realized how special it was.

“That was a nice way to honor those kids,” he said.

But it was not just because of the students that Taylor received the award, it was also because of his teaching methods. In a survey given to music students, they said that they feel like they are getting life skills from the program, which is what Taylor likes to emphasize in teaching.

“Skills such as responsibility, dedication, seeing a project through its fruition and taking pride in what you do — those are tremendous life lessons,” he said.

Taylor does not deny that he is also demanding, but he hopes to help students recognize that it is OK to fail. As a professional trumpet player, he said that he treats students as he does other professional musicians. He will correct their mistakes, but let them know that they can learn from those errors.

Playing close attention to detail has paid off. Taylor said that the varsity jazz band has placed at the top of major competitions for the last five years.

“It means we are doing something right,” he said. “We are one of the best jazz bands in the state, and I think it shows in our results. We have kids who are getting music scholarships and playing all over the country.”

Taylor started teaching music at Treasure Mountain Junior High in 1995 and moved to Ecker Hill Middle School before coming to Park City High School in 2001. He teaches three jazz bands and three concert bands.

He said that he loves teaching because he is able to share his passion for music, which he said is a “Zen place” for him to go and helps him connect with others. He said that teachers through high school and university helped him see his potential, and he loves to give back and help his students realize theirs.

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