Park City music teacher named Music Educator of the Year
Christopher Taylor says he always wanted to be a band director
Christopher Taylor doesn’t believe he could have become anything else.
It was clear from an early age, he said, that teaching music for a living, like his father, was his calling. The decision to follow into the profession was so obvious, in fact, that it was hardly a choice at all.
“It’s one of those things — I didn’t choose to do it,” he said. “It chose me. It’s what I do. … To be honest, I don’t think I knew anything else. My dad was a band director, and I would help him plan the festivals or do the behind-the-scenes stuff for a concert. As my dad says, I knew more about band directing in eighth grade than most college graduates.”
Taylor has proven himself in more than two decades as a music teacher in the Park City School District. Many who have watched him lead the Park City High School band program to statewide and national prominence over the last 15 years say he’s as good as any high school band director around.
The Utah High School Activities Association seconded that opinion recently. The organization named Taylor the 2016 Music Educator of the Year, an honor recognizing his efforts to shape the band into one of the most school’s most successful programs.
Receiving the honor was gratifying for Taylor, but he said it isn’t his alone. He credited the music teachers who came before him for building the foundations of the band program and his current colleagues for helping it flourish. Without the contributions of many others, he said, he wouldn’t have a band worthy of statewide recognition.
“We just have this team of amazing educators here, and they’re all very passionate about what they do,” he said.
As nice as winning the award was, external recognition is hardly the reason Taylor remains passionate about his job as he enters his third decade in the profession. He said being a high school band director remains the perfect distillation of his two main passions, music and teaching.
“I’m a good musician but I’m not the most brilliant trumpet player in the world,” he said. “But I do think I have the ability to help other people find what they want to do in music. There’s a part of me that’s just a natural teacher. I think I read people pretty well, and I know when I need to push a kid and when I need to back off.”
Taylor said he is a walking example of the saying that if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. Maintaining that outlook has allowed him to appreciate even the days that don’t go as planned.
“I get to make music with kids all the time,” he said. “I enjoy working with the kids, and I enjoy the making music part. You put those things together and I have a great job. If I have a bad day at the job, it’s because somebody didn’t sound good. I could be a doctor.”
After 15 years as director of the PCHS band, Taylor said the band is completely different than the one he inherited. The biggest change has been in the depth of the program. Like a football team that has backups capable of stepping into a starring role if needed, the band is littered with talent.
Taylor knows not every band director is fortunate enough to lead such a program, and he spends each day trying to help students hone their ability and expand it. Every so often, the progress a student makes becomes clear. That, more than any award, is the ultimate thrill for Taylor.
“That’s probably the coolest feeling in the world,” he said. “You see the light bulb come on, like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ Their eyes light up. Everything about them changes, and all of a sudden there’s a swagger with what they’re doing. That’s the big thing: the ‘I can do this.’ That’s what I love to see come across from the kids.”
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The forum was moderated by KPCW’s Carolyn Murray and was mostly subdued, no surprise given that two of the incumbent candidates are unchallenged.