Mr. Spiller was my high school band director and he's still there teaching away. He takes what he does very seriously and is proud of it. And because of this, the people he teaches music to and the experiences and performances they have are things that they can be proud of too. He was a big positive influence in my early life and there is no doubt in my mind that he's still influencing each generation of kids at Vienna High School now.
Recorded on 2019-03-23
Speakers: Joseph Weidinger and Ray Spiller III
Ray Spiller. The third, Mr Spiller. I met you seventeen years ago when I was twelve. At the time, my life was in flux. As we moved away from my old dear home to another house. I switch from Catholic school to public school and finally from grade school to middle school. And if I still remember one thing about that first day of middle school waking up in the new house and going to the public school for the first time in that big gymnasium it was seeing the new guy, the new teacher race below the third, Leaning leaning up against the wall by the entrance with a suit on and chin up and thinking.
And I'm thinking, Oh, man, this guy means business. However, the military Roma soon cleared, and you over the next six years became a friend and mentor to me and many others. So, Mr Spiller, thanks for joining me here in Vichy Missouri on March twenty third, two thousand nineteen. At spots. Awesome s. So let's just start from the beginning. Where did you grow up originally? Las Cruces, New Mexico. Born and raised.
And how big was that town? Ah, second largest city in New Mexico at the time. I believe it still is population wise with Albuquerque being the largest. And you grew up their urine tile entire childhood. Yeah. Yeah. Born and raised there I was born and more Memorial General Hospital there and graduated from Mayfield High School. And did my undergraduate work at New Mexico State University, which is located there in Las Cruces.
Also cool. And, ah, how many siblings you have? I have three older sisters, three older sisters. And how How old is the third sister? How? What's the difference between you and eldest sister C sixteen years older than me? Sixteen. Sixteen. Wow. Okay, that's interesting. And your dad was in the military, right? Uh, yeah. He spent time in the military and was also a civil engineer and worked for the military for some time as well.
And, ah, being why? I'm surprised, in a way, because you didn't move around a lot. And I feel like people who have military of military parent do move around. So it's kinda nice, but maybe he was on the tail end of that. Ah, Well, by by the time I came into my father's life, he was actually running a turquoise business. Turquoise like May color turquoise jewelry. What? He out of the actual mineral itself?
Turco. Okay, I didn't know. Yeah, Southwestern jewelry on DH. Then a zay was growing up. I had closed that business down and went back to work for the government s Oh, my three sisters got to move around lots. Ah, they spent time in Japan, Philippines, Brazil. Yeah. And of course, several places here in the States from California to Illinois. They moved around themselves because my dad again was a civil engineer for the military.
Stop doing that to do the jewelry thing. And then stop the Julie thing to go backto work for NASA and retired from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Wow, that's quite a storied career there. Yeah. Yeah. In fact, we can. We can thank my father for our satellite TV because my father was the one that earned the contract to build the teacher's satellite system, which is a tracking data relay satellite system for the government or satellites.
Andi put the first four up that basically eliminated line of sight communication that we had problems with So now somebody in Las Cruces, New Mexico, could talk to somebody in Australia via satellite link because of these satellites. And since then, there have been a ton more put up that have been modeled after that. That bring us our satellite TV in our satellite Internet and those type things. Does that go through your head every time you like, flip on the TV?
Like Damn, my dad had a partners, uh, on occasion. Yeah, yeah. Especially if I, you know, happen to dig back and old photographs and things like that and really start thinking about the things that my father did do with NASA. I got to see the space shuttle land because of my father and NASA. It landed in White Sands Missile range one year. Andi, I also got to see it piggyback on the big seven. Forty seven when it buzzed my dad's site, his NASA site, because it happened a flight right over the top of our house On the way to that site where we lived, you could see the big satellite dishes of the Goddard Space Center from the basically right out my backyard.
So I've had a lot of contact with NASA, and the space shuttle thinks they did growing up because of my father. So thing that's cool. What did your mom do? Ah, she was the secretary and accounting for my dad during his time when he was running the turquoise business and then because of my mother's crones disease. Shortly after my father quit the turquoise business and went back to work for the government, she went into the hospital and proceeded to go through in ten years, nineteen surgeries because back in the late seventies, early eighties, we had no information on crows disease.
And so my mom was kind of a guinea pig there, and their only solution versus medication was to remove intestine that was inflaming because of the auto immune disease. So after the jewelry business, my mom was pretty much a stay at home mom. When she wasn't dealing with things in the hospital, Cool and your dad was he Was it a pretty intense household growing up in that time, it could be could be just dependent on kind of what was going on.
If there was big contracts or things that were due that my dad had to get done. I can remember many nights waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom to see my dad out in the bar area of our house, working on stuff. There were There were many sleepless nights, and when that intensity I was putting pressure on him yet did beat the house on occasion. But being a kid, I knew it was best, and that was called Go outside and get away from it.
If it's intense than go outside, stay outside. And then I didn't have to worry about it. Did your dad put a lot of, like expectations on neural pressure, Like Excel and whatever, whatever. No, I wouldn't say that came from my dad that Moore came from my mom. Interesting. Just because being a state home, mom, she was, you know, my three sisters out of the house. I was basically raised like an on Lee child s.
So she was constantly, you know, in my life, you know, allowed me to, you know, come home comfortably and talk about things that happened during my day. And so yeah, the pressure to succeed Ah, and do things well in that pride behind it came from her. Cool. And your mom followed you up here? Like I remember when I was in high school. She was? Yeah. Yeah, I I actually convinced her to move up here. Yeah. Hey, so Okay, We're back.
Um, sorry. We got our food and ate it. And here we are, asking Mr Spiller questions again. So you were growing up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in junior high and high school. And, Ah, what type of Ah, what type of kid were you academically speaking in junior high high school? Did you get good grades? You know, Ace B's everyone. So I'll see. That was a big deal with my mom. Is that you know, you give everything you have shouldn't expect Today's out of me in every class just to give everything I had.
But my gosh, if I got a d, that was a problem, because she considered that is being lazy. And that was just my mom. You know, if I admitted to my mom at the class was brutal, and the sea was the best always going to do as long as I was working at it, she didn't care. She accepted that rolled with it. So, you know, I was I Was I about Victorian material? No. Was I at the bottom? My class knows. So I'd say it Probably road in the middle of my class, so I can't remember what GPS graduated with back then so and sports you your interest in sports.
You are interested in sports. You're a big blues fan. Evidently. Yeah. Big blues fan. I mean, I liked watching sports growing up. Big football guy growing up the hockey thing didn't happen till I moved here, but a big football fan, Not much of a baseball fan just because we had no professional baseball around and the football thing came from my dad. I tried to play football when I was in junior high. That did not turn out so well because the only season I played I ended the season with a concussion.
Oh Ah, that was the end of that because my dad said No more concussions. What position did you play? Uh, tried to play keywords, tried to play defensive end. A writer left did matter. Sometimes it's switched to pin it on what the coach wanted. But again, it was It was a try. It was never I was very good at, uh, I considered myself to be a second stringer because I rotated in, but there were a couple of games.
I didn't even see the field. So You know, I tried the baseball thing my first year in high school. That didn't work out very well. Never got. See any playing time just cause I wasn't very good. Tried to track thing. Tried to throw javelin. I thought that would be pretty school cooler. Chuck, a spear is kind of how I looked at it as a kid. Aunt. Of course. Just again. I was not very athletic, Wasn't monstrously strong, so couldn't throw very far.
Didn't have the coordination for correct technique. So that didn't work out well, so that that was my my dabble in that stuff. And then it was pretty much straight music after that s o circling back into the thing that you were good at. You know, I've got Preface is by saying I've seen at least a few really good musicians in my life at this point, you know, like a lot of really good trombone players in college or in the professional world.
I gotta tell you, when I remember how you sounded and played the demonstrate things a man there hasn't been anyone that I've met with that compares to that memory. Ah, the personality that you play with the tone. You're a great trombonist, dude. And when did when did you start taking that Really? Seriously, Um, I would say my seventh grade year. I started in sixth grade band. We only met in Ban twice a week because our director traveled around between the four Elementary's so we didn't get it every day.
Ah was not really good at playing trombone at that point. And honestly, my interest in Trauma one came from my neighbor. Ah, my neighbor was a few years older than me and came home with a trombone when he was in sixth grade and I was in fourth grade and I said, That's what I want to play because he played. And so I gave it a try and then decided going into my seventh grade year that, yeah, I just don't want to do this and took a Spanish class and sitting in Spanish class a few doors down the hallway from the band room.
I could hear the band playing and knew I had a lot of friends that were still in there and two weeks in the Spanish class, went home and told my mom, I just didn't want to do Spanish anymore. I want to go back to band. Well, it's pretty much history there. Got locked in and never left A lot of good mentors. Ray TT was my first real mentor. And excuse me and then Mr Matthews after him, that took over the junior high job.
Mr. Ramsey, I got him for one year in high school and then Mr Schultz was there on Of course, we got into college. I It's a long list of all the mentors and people I looked up to. So you use the word mentor. Do you just mean like, Director Ban director? Or how would you describe that relationship? Um, with Ray tt. It was a he was, uh he was pretty personal guy with all of us. In fact, probably a lot of things that he didn't said in class you can't get away with today.
But it made the class fun force and unpredictable, which always made it, you know, something to look forward to going to from flying batons to calling saxophones, saxophones thes were some of the things that he did. Which, of course, I can't do that kind of stuff nowadays. Um, did not have a close relationship, Mr Ramsey, but did look up to him being his last year there with him retiring, and we all knew it was kinda hard for for any of us young sophomores to develop any kind of relationship with him.
Um, Mr Shots developed a pretty good relationship with him, just for the simple fact that my mom was thie band treasurer for two years. So there was a lot of connection with him on. Of course, he he pressed upon me to do things like all state ban all state jazz band, Southwest honor band. Those kind of opportunities that I had known you were in those, right? Like, Yeah, you were an all state van. Two years, if I recall, like your last two years.
Yeah. Yeah, very top was in the symphony orchestra my junior year, which would have put me in the top spot in the state and then within the symphonic band my second year, which would have put me in the second spot in the state without things worked into Mexico. And was that like a life changing experience being around a lot of other people who were just really good and absolutely probably the saddest part was I wish I would have realized it back then.
Looking back on it now, it was an unreal experience. That's probably what I miss more than anything is being able to sit down with a group of musicians that level and play and make music. In fact, I would say I would miss that more than anything. I mean, I love teaching, but to sit out and play my trombone and sit with people that know what they're doing and enjoy what they're doing and, you know, basically sweat every ounce of themselves out Every time they play.
There's there's just nothing like that in that level. Uh, so yeah, yeah. Cool. The all state band thing, you know, from remembering when I was auditioning for the all state ban, It is pretty competitive. Deal like you have to be really driven, Teo to get that. You conceive yourself a competitive person. Absolutely. And who that come from? Uh you know, I guess I just have to say it was my mom. I would say I'd gotten that for my mom again.
She was just a very prideful person. And I'm not so sure. It was so much thie, the competitiveness and her That was the drive, except for the fact that she just had so much pride about how she did things. And, you know, if you're going to do it, you don't go halfway. You know, when loser draw, you put everything you have into it. If you're going to make the decisions, you do it. And so when I got into the music world who figured out, you know how competitive things were and started having success within that competitive environment?
You know it. It stroked my ego and my pride up and just forced me to be more competitive because of that pride drive that I got from my mom. I want to comeback Teo Competitiveness in a little while as we get along with this, but a real quick before we leave like race pillar as a kid, what's your earliest memory? Uh, wow. There's there's There's so many of them. Um, I would say probably my earliest most David memory.
Just cause I'LL never forget it is when we moved from the city of Los Cruces out into the desert. Basically moved about twenty five minutes outside of the city, up below the San Andreas Oregon mountain range. And we lived in a motor home for a year. And how old were you had on a piece of dirt? Uh, I want to say three or four because I was not attending kindergarten yet. I didn't have ten kindergarten until after my dad had bought the first single white trailer that we lived in.
And why'd you guys move out into the middle of the desert? Ah, my dad has always had this this preface about him the way out west. And so my dad, much like me did not like having neighbors but up right against him, Like you do have within housing developments in the city. And so it was a good deal for twenty acres were the land. So he bought twenty acres where the land and way built on that twenty acres and you lived out in that Moro That home until the temporary home.
Until you We're in your real home. Yeah. Yeah, because we went from a single white from the motor home to single wide trailer. And I lived probably about fifty percent of my school life in that single wide trailer, and then the other fifty percent my dad bought a double wide trailer, which would have been it was more of a manufactured home, necessarily than a double wide trailer and had it set on concrete pads and built up and outbuildings and stuff built around and things like that.
That that that was the home that that I had to leave when I moved here to Missouri, so Oh, interesting. Oh, to go to grad school. Yeah. Uh, yeah. So your dad was a tinker like you aspired to be to where you are. Probably a tinker, But you look forward to as we're talking about during the break here. I like tinkering on on engines and stuff when you retire. Is that where you get that from your dad? No, actually.
Get that from my grandfather. He spent twenty five years working motor pool for the navy on So when it came to changing oil and doing the general maintenance. My grandfather was the one to put the car upon the ramps and do it. My dad grew up tinkering with cars and got to a point in his life where he decided he was making enough money. He didn't have to get his hands dirty anymore. If something broke, he'd pay somebody else to fix it.
So all the all the gear head, I haven't mean anything. I know automotive came from for my grand grand ball stepping, which was my mom's dad. Okay, interestingly enough, So your grandfather in the military and your dad was did you ever consider the military? Yeah, I actually several times there was. There was a long, long discussion, a lot of thinking when I was in high school, I really like jets. Like planes.
My dad owned a says it a little bit of five seats s an agent with four other gentleman on DH. I had gone up several times. I am flying in. That plane just really loved planes, and I thought that would be just so cool to fly in eighteen war Hawker and have fifteen tomcat, you know, And so I really considered doing the Air Force. And then I got good offers from New Mexico State University of New Mexico for scholarships, and so that kind of change directions for me.
So did the college thing. And then, while I was in the college thing, getting close to graduating with my undergrad degree, I seriously looked in the military again on more so than flying jets. Now playing my horn in the military, I thought that you'd consider this heavily at some point. So, yeah, and, um, went through a couple of recorded auditions. I tried for the president's own pursing ban, which is Thie Washington, D.
C based Army Band. Have a good friend that is still playing in there, and he's the leader of the Herald trumpets for them. My Kano and talked to him quite a bit about it, sent in an audition recording and didn't get a bite on it and then got in contact with a guy at the Pentagon who keeps track of openings at all the basis for all the groups and so everyone. So I was kind of giving him a call to feel out, see if there was any openings.
And there was one of the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio audition for it, sent to tape off and got a hit on it. They called and wanted me to come in with two other finalists to do a live audition. And I was poor college, no money to buy the plane ticket to go do it went and talked to my dad pretty heavily about it. My dad refused to help me on it because he wanted me to finish my degree. I told him the Air Force would force me to finish that degree because that's part of how you playing those upper level bands.
He didn't believe that. You know, Hindsight's twenty twenty probably should've sold my car and did it anyway. But I didn't. And, you know, life steers us in a direction for reason regardless. So, you know, lost opportunity. But, you know, no regret, uh, deep regret. I call it just a tiny one, just cause it was an opportunity. But now that I have friends in the military and seen how much our government is reduced, those ensembles, I'm not sure sure haven't gotten a full career out of it right, You know.
So So probably better. I went away. I went. Yeah. There you go. When you were kids practicing in like we just talked about. You were an all state being your phenomenal trombonist. How did you practice back then? Can like What was your regimen like? Um well, you know, I try and explain to the kids that I've got now that you don't have to live on your instrument, you know, twenty four seven to be good at it. You just have to be smart about how you practice.
And I had already learned what I call efficient practice back then. E I did not. I didn't play and work on the things I knew I already could play. I went after the few small things that I knew I couldn't play. And then when I got to a point where I had worked all of those little details out, that it was just about every time I played it, performing it and putting myself in a performance setting where I would play it down, you know, good or bad corrections.
That's what it wass. And then if there were areas I still wasn't strong on, I would focus on those areas. So, basically ten to fifteen minutes before ban every morning five days a week is where my practice came in. Wow. So you practise ten or fifteen minutes every morning. And that was enough to become, like an all state caliber musician. That's the efficiency of your practice. Yeah. Yeah, that's that's insane.
I'm the kind of guy who was just like, particularly with the organ or something. I just practice for hours. But, you know, the efficient practicing is make make so much of a difference. Because a lot times looking back at my own practice on musical instruments, I feel like I was just kind of having fun or exploring something, uh, playing the parts that I know, unlike because it's enjoyable, not necessarily making myself any better.
Uh, but without getting too much of that, that's, uh that's pretty cool. So, did you take lessons? Private lessons? Ah, yeah, often on. Um, I was pretty picky about who I took lessons from. Uh, if it any point, I felt like they were psychologically kind of crushing me. I wouldn't stay with him for very long, but, you know, I had again Dr Clark who was my big time mentor for me when I was doing my undergrad working in Mexico State.
I took lessons with him my senior year. There were there were several times there through my junior high and high school years where a graduate assistant was coming in doing there. They're supervised teaching. And I would if I figured out they were Trauma player, Low Brass Player. I would immediately latch onto them and take lessons from them. S O. You know, if you'd say, Did I have consistent private lessons?
No. Did I? Did I find ways to work with people win And when I could, Yeah. And did you practice purely for yourself? Or was there some external motivator? Like, in other words, we're to desire to be good come from? They didn't just stem from your competitive nature and like I'm good at this, or was there any other reason I was good at it? In the pride pride that I have in me, I just I did not ever want to be the reason that any of the groups I played in weren't good.
I always wanted to make sure that if if I was not the strongest player in the group, I was right up there with the rest of the stallion's. Never ever did I want to be the one that couldn't do it. So no matter what the challenge was throwing at me, I was always worked hard to make sure I was the first one to master it. So I would always stay ahead of everybody else. And and it's just that pride in me. I didn't want to be again.
My mom, you know, I don't Don't do it halfway, dude alway So we did it all the way on DH like, did you get nervous when you auditioned for things. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, Yeah. He was a human being Fact a few times that my ego got in the way as I was, you know, growing up maturing and learning how to be a a decent human being. Those times that I was not nervous and was full of myself, I thought things were just going to go the way they should.
Those were the times that thean result was not what I wanted. The times that I went in and I had some nerves and was a little concerned about things that she's living things with the best. Thanks. Cool. Ah, And so when did you decide that you wanted to be a teacher? Mmm. I would say thie idea probably came in my head when I was a ninth grader in junior high mentoring seventh graders that we're coming in and it kind of just continued from there.
I mean, the only thing I've ever really truly been good at has been music. And so, you know, why go a different direction than something I'm passionate about? No. And for sure, once I got into high school, you know, other than that, that moment in my life were potentially going to the Air Force might have been an option to fly jets. I pretty much knew that, you know, it was gonna be music on some level, whether I was going to be a teacher performer.
Both whatever I did in life was going to encompass music. And what brought you to Missouri than so you graduate with a ER either performance degree or a education degree at bachelor of Science and Music education, not the actual title of it. It was actually em issue back of the time SMS you and Jerry Hoover. Ah, that got me up here. And more specifically, the at the time Carlos Aguero was thie High school band director and lost Crucis I school Eat and I was student teaching over Picacho Middle School.
And there was a small, select group of kids that sat right on a district boundary line between Mayfield in Los Cruces. And so Carlos would come over and recruit on those kids because they could choose whether they went to Las Cruces High School. We went to make field. Yeah, so he would come over recruiting that. That's where he and I kind of got to get know each other. Andi I didn't realize that he and Juan Meraz were super super good friends, and that's kind of where the connection happened and where Hoover and Dr Pray their unwanted heard about me because Carlo said, Hey, you need to get this guy here.
So, unbeknownst to me, I'm working really hard to get this very small quarter assistant ship at the University of Oklahoma because I was not ready to teach yet my final year in college, working on my my bachelor's degree. So I thought, Well, we'LL go to master's couple years that maybe I'LL be ready doesn't hurt to get a little more education under your bed. Ready, as in like you weren't mentally ready to enter like kids.
Yeah, yelling at you all day and write being like I gotta lead this, right? Yeah, I was not ready for that and too, you know, I still want to play, you know, I still want to perform. So So I wasn't ready for it. So I came home after doing all this work with the University of Oklahoma, and I opened up my mailbox, and in it was my acceptance letter for the assistant ship of the University of Oklahoma. And I walked into my little bitty studio apartment and hit my answering machine, and there were four messages on my answer machine.
The first message was from Juanma. Roz. The second message was from Jerry Hoover, and the third message was from Dr Belleville Pressure. And the fourth message was cardinals aguerro saying you need to take these three seriously and check this out. So I gave him a phone call and, you know, stopped at the University of Oklahoma on my way and saw what they had, you know, for me and what they wanted to show and told him.
Hey, I made a decision, yet I'm headed up. There s a mess right now. And of course, they didn't seem too excited about that. But I said, Well, you know, I'm not going to close my doors here. So I had it up to some issue and met Hoover, met one and figured out wanted graduated from Mayfield High School himself. So we had an immediate connection. They're both having been born and raised in Los Cruises and its history.
I've just never left wizard I fell in love with with the culture here on and the people here and, you know, the blues, the Cardinals. When we had him, I was a small Rams fan. I will admit that when we had the Rams, and you know, I like watching the chief's play, and it's just it's just a Midwestern lifestyle film with the Midwestern lifestyle. You know, they say, like one thing that fish knows nothing about is water because it's in water, you know, it doesn't know anything else so but I kind of feel like I don't even know what the Midwest from lifestyle is.
I've lived in here all my life, and I did live in Los Angeles for a little bit but I don't know, Like, what is it about comparing like New Mexico? Did Missouri? What is what is a big difference or what's one difference? Well, you can just take the big difference being here growing up forty five minutes from phone the Mexico border. You know, I grew up the minority of my town. Thie Hispanic population. There is the dominant population in that town s O.
The majority of my friends were Hispanics, and it is just a different culture. I basically grew up in a culture that was very similar to what you would find in Mexico on DH, their ideals. And you know how they see things and how they treat each other and how they do things and and, you know, don't get me wrong here. A lot of great friends. I have a lot of respect for all of them. Um, and you know, I do miss Los Cruces and that culture and but a tte the same time.
The Mid Western culture, it's just different from that. It was literally culture shock for me when I moved here live in Springfield my first year because it was just a different sort of people. You were great. It differently. You were treated differently. Um, and I don't know. I just I just fell in love with it. So the mean potatoes of your work, it's done inside the classroom a CE far as being a teacher here.
Ah, at Mary's Air one. What is an example of one thing talking about teaching what's an example of one thing outside the classroom that is crucial for success in the program? I realized as I was reading the question, I was like, Oh, this is a pretty big jump So But for some reason was just the next question here. Um, but, yeah, what's the one thing outside the classroom that makes teaching like makes or breaks a good experience?
And the program in the group? Uh, I'd say it's just the distant individual's personal investment. That means you're or you're the student, a student's personal investment in the program. I used this phrase a lot now on, and that's you know you could lead a horse to water, but you know you can't you can't force a horse to drink. So as I try and sell my program to students like I tried to sell to you and your peers.
Ah, there is some point where where personal ownership has to come into play. Um, and if you don't take personal ownership and you know what you bring to an ensemble, what needs to be done in the ensemble in and you know the entire ensemble as a whole, you know, it's just there. There, there's there is no success. You don't get better on your instrument. You don't help the ensemble get better. You don't recover.
Well, when you have human moments, it's just really comes down to your individual personal investment in the program. And how would you compare like the personal investment aspect of like kids in the misery as opposed to So like in between coming to Vienna, which you've been here for like seventeen, eighteen years, right? Seventeen years? Yeah, so and before that, you were at Likes with cotton and where else?
Houston, Houston, Missouri. He's a misery, and those are obviously bigger schools like How would you compare student's ability to take on like personal investment in band specifically compared to kids in those schools? Is it it's the same problems, the same solutions, the same. Yeah, Yeah, there. You know, honestly, there is no greener grass on the other side of the fence, necessarily with an education, the thie only way I would label, you know, aside, greener and grasses the support, you have the support from the community and the support from the administrators in the staff on what you're trying to do with your program.
I had pretty good support to start in Houston, and and then it dwindled administratively there, which put me in a position to have to move on to Smith Cotton. I had great support there until the very end, and then lost things administratively there as well for support, which, you know, brought me here to Vienna. And I have had a really strong administrative support as well as community support over the years for what we're trying to do on DH when you have that kind of investment and it allows you to really focus on the kids and and make them your focus and not the extraneous noise of everything else that goes along with teaching.
And how would you summarize like support on what that means? Uh, down on someone like me who's never really considered like what happens in education on the administrative level. Um, just like small things, like worrying about like, whether yeah, you're going to let you, uh, have this one thing on this day, right? Something, you know, it's it's, you know, it comes down to, you know, you know, being able to work with other, you know, because with being all your good kids do everything.
So if you don't have a relationship with your coaches and with your your other extracurricular activities, it's hard to plan things on the calendar to provide opportunities for your program. Two obviously, administration works into that because they control that calendar. May they playing Tow it financially if you, you know, if you don't have the money to to purchase the instruments like the big purchases we made while you were there that got us the Drumline goddess.
The percussion equipment we needed got us. The tubas got us the Jews of Bones, you know? So you you need those things as well to have success in there and then, you know, and then and then the community support, which you know, sometimes I think a lot of young directors kind of overlooked at a little bit. I mean, if a parent is not willing to invest in an instrument so that their child may join your band program, then you don't have that kid in your program s o there.
You know, the parents have to believe that you know that the dollars, they're going to invest in your program, that their kid's going to get something out of it and, you know, and that's sometimes that's a hard sell on. I can't say that I have stubble along the way learning how to navigate that. But you know, again, I've had I've had good administrators support. All the years I've been here in Vienna, I always get along great with the staff, always been able to work with all all the coaches and the other extracurricular staff to make sure that any conflicts we might have had or a student might have had We can find a reasonable solution to allow the child to do both and not be penalized either direction.
No. So, yeah, you know, those those pre important factors And And I didn't have that in Houston and and for sure, Smith Cotton being the bigger school. Yeah, Yeah, there there was no working with any staff there whatsoever. It kind of strange, too. I don't know if I want to call it a necessarily a medal on my chest, but I had several man kids quit the football team because the coach wouldn't let him come out march after O.
And they were like second, third stringers. You know, I told that Coach when I sat down with the first time, I said, Hey, you know, we share way share students, one of your first drink players, and I'm not even gonna ask tohave him out on the field at half time. They need to know the game plan they need. You know, whatever changes you're making, they need to be in that locker room. I mean, I get that part, but you know, a second or especially a third stringer who might only see the football field for a minute, you know, why did they need to be in the locker room?
But he didn't see it that way. So in the process, I looked at those kids and shrug my shoulders and said, Well, I'm not going to penalize you for well, like Coach do what he's wanted to do on this one. And next thing I know, they're coming up to me. Go on. Well, you won't have to worry about anymore. Mr Spiller. Quit football. Wow. Which were some stoners to me. I'll admit I was pretty shocked those moments in my career, but I can't say I wasn't smiling behind the shock.
Sure. What's one thing? No, no, no. Here's what I really want to ask. So going back to sell selling, you probably didn't know that you're going to have to be a salesman in college. The sell people on the idea. So people on, like how much fun and how much you learn being in bands or whatever. How much did your expectations, or how much of a shock or disparity between expectation and reality was it when you like, landed that first teaching job and first day, you know, whatever.
Oh, ultimate humbling slap in the face. I had a lot of delusions of Granger as faras what I thought I was going to have my program do. And then, as I sat there and stared at the nineteen children I had in my first job, realizing that they didn't have the skill that was going to be necessary to play the music, I was wanting to throw at them. Yeah, it was it was very humbling. I had to make a lot of adjustments, even more so.
I had to, you know, force myself to stand up in front of those kids and admit to them that I had chosen wrong on the music that I had gone above and beyond what you know they were going to be capable of, and that we were going to make these adjustments for their betterment. Hey was very, very humbling was not not easy to do in. That's probably the biggest crutch with my pride is being able to swallow it at times.
But I had to swallow quite a few times in my first year teaching cool. What's one thing that's always come easy for you as far as being a teacher in music is concerned. Amanda. What's one thing as you're thinking about that answering what's one thing that was just you really had to work on? Uh, I would say the one easy thing. It would be B, you know, building the excitement to bring them in. Probably the toughest thing is maintaining an excitement throughout to avoid attrition within the program on that is a very fine line, because if you push too hard, you burn him out, you lose him and you're talking about on the scope of one year like a whole calendar school year.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. On the whole calendar year, I mean, if you think back to, you know, your your first year and band Very exciting fun time learning all these new things doing, doing all these good things have a success. Um, and then, you know, reflect back to your junior and senior year and the grind of marching down the street and how much of a grind that becomes is you get towards the end of the marching season and still having to keep everything up.
And then, you know, the unfortunate side to to education is, even though every day is different. There's still a lot of routine a cz faras day in and day out exercises and how things go and it's those day in and day out exercises that I have found changing them up, being the most difficult again to keep from, you know, boring somebody or burning them out. Wei are creatures of habit, but all of us get bored of routines at some point and want to change things up S o Maintaining that excitement in the band and maintaining those kids and the band has probably been my toughest battle.
But you know, and again, going back to the easiest thing, you know, bringing him in his beginners. It's easy to get beginners excited about it because it's new. I mean, there's just there's no work in the beginning because it's all new. When the honeymoon is over, that's That's when the real work begins, right? Okay, How do you mentally approach every new school year? Only granted a school year for a band director begins a little early because you're already having camps and preparing for the marching season.
It's different every year. It really depends on the personality of the group that I'm going to take over. Um, I don't change anything for beginners because they're always knew every year. But I have to change my thought processes and how much approach things with my junior high and high school groups. Because the talent level is different every year, it cycles. The personality is different. Some years I have goofy groups that don't work very hard.
Some years I have goofy groups that worked really hard. Some years I have, you know, just seriously serious groups that just, you know, bust their tail and everything they do on DH, then there's been a couple of years where I've had those groups where, no matter how hard they try, it just doesn't seem to to move anywhere forward. So, you know, it's just a matter of what group. You know, I'm going to deal with the following school years to how I approach it mentally every year.
Because if I know, I'm gonna have a hard working group, much like I did with your class that I know I could push and I can push him or and I can push him or and we're gonna get a lot of things done. But, you know, there was a There's been a couple of years where I've had groups that I didn't dare push that harder. I'd lose them All right, so you have to feel that out. And so one thing that's interesting to me is that and this is Kapil question for any personal teaches in high school for or any school for a while is that you know, you mentioned like my class or whatever, and I was wondering how, as a teacher who sees kids go through the whole program or whatever, how you even like think of eras and in your program, because to me it would seem like because every year, you know, new one gets added in sixth grade band and then one falls off on the seniors, the senior class graduates.
It's just a constant rotation of of averages, you know, if, like you makes a bunch of numbers together, the average is still the same, and nothing's really sticks out. But do you see true eras of your band? I don't know if I'd call it a WR. I don't label. It is eras I, even though that's an interesting way to put it. I like that. I might have to use that. The future's an era, but I label in his classes, and it's really dictated by how the class affects my high school band when they come in his freshman so right as they come in a freshman they already have.
Like if that class is going to be distinct, they have a distinct identity that just like, makes everything change. Yeah, yeah, change it. And it's it's funny to watch the evolution of that change because, you know, they'LL come in a little intimidated by the upperclassmen and then they start feeling their way out. Realized that, you know, Hey, I can do this thing and then they become sophomores, and the personality of that class starts to take on.
You know, the whole band will take on the personality of that class, and by the time they're Jews, juniors and seniors, that class has made their mark and, you know, and that that dictates the level of the group and things that have been accomplished. You know, it's funny you bring this up because what a vivid memory I have of this because when your class came in his freshman, that was the first year I brought Mr Limber owner in to help us with a marching band camp.
And that particular year I had nothing but you freshmen in that Monday and we got done rehearsing smoke on the water and you guys left for the day and Lim brother looked at me and I looked at him and I really didn't say any words. And he goes, Man, you're you have really good strong high school this year and I looked at limber and I smiled and went, Stuart, that's that's just the freshman class we're going to see the rest of it tomorrow.
Wow. And he's like, seriously and I was like, Yeah, yeah, If these guys were going to write the book for what this program means and your class did, your class has set the tradition and the standard that this pan has had ever since you graduated, because what you fed down is still a constant within my marching band on the program. The fact that you guys have nephews and nieces and cousins and things like that that have gone through my program, that helps it even more because I can always relate back to and say, Well, you know, you know what Joseph and Cody were in here s o?
I will throw those stories out there to them in, but yeah, you're you're class really set things in emotion. Um, And then there were some good years after your class. I had some really good classes seeing my first beginning class that I'd ever started with Jennifer Boat Laura Shanks and those folks you're just behind us. It was just behind you guys. They were a big part of that building process, too, because you guys the seventh and eighth graders bought into what I was selling, and we never look back.
We never look back. The other major class that came through that really set their mark eyes my son's class. And I know it might sound like I'm leaning that way a little bit because he is my son. But, man, there was just so many strong players in there, and they didn't They didn't want to play second fiddle to anybody else. You know, they really wanted to make sure that everywhere we went, everything we did that people remember for good reasons that Vienna was there, you know, on DH, they've really set a mark.
Um, the class It's getting ready to graduate this year. All females. In fact, when they came in, there were two males in that class. One has moved away and the other one since quit for May. So but yeah, they took over us freshmen, and now a seniors leaving. It's going to be hard to see them go. And my hope is the class coming in next year will create a new era as you're putting in here and make some things happen, you know?
You know, I was just thinking about how this probably only happens with smaller schools, because when you have a large school that's three, four times the size, you have so many more people that kind of like salutes the or, and it makes the again referring back to the average like a consistent number. You know, like there's not as much variance between year and year because every brand new bag has about the same rate, you know, has some good players, has some bad players, whatever.
But in Vienna, since it's so small, it's like it's like rolling just a few Dyson. It's like some years. You just get a bunch of sixes. So speaking of Vienna, um, and you mentioned like Midwest culture and all that stuff, and that's cool. But what what about Vienna resonates with you such that you spend what I'm guessing to be the largest portion of your life here. Um, I'll tell you. Ah, Vienna has always surprised me at how culturally in tune they are with the fine arts for being a small what, you know, a lot of folks would, you know, from the outside looking in C is a farming community.
I don't think they realize that. You know, in this community, if the band's not playing well, people know it. You know people are not immune to it because, you know, they know when they understand music and they know what's good. And I know what's bad. I mean, we have a fine arts fair here, you know, in our little community. And and I consider that to be a pretty big deal and, you know, probably more than anything, is just a sense of pride in this community.
I mean, you you drive around and you could just see it. By the way, the majority of people you know keep their houses keep their yards. You know how they how they talk about each other, how they carry themselves. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of thie the older members of this community that have been farmers, their entire lives and things like that. And it really has opened up what was probably a pretty ignorant view before I moved here of what it means to be a farmer live.
You know, that kind of life on you know, I don't know. I just I like it. I like the quiet community. I like the fact that, you know, if you're if you're really in trouble, people will come out of the woodwork in this community to help you. Um, you know, and, you know, I wouldn't hesitate to do same for others if I was asked E. I guess it really does. That spoiled out of that sense of pride. I felt it when I drove into this community to interview and and I still feel it driving to work every day on I drive that same stretch of forty two every day.
And it just it just amazes me the sense of private that folks have in themselves in this community, and I really love that. Go. What's one thing that has changed? And by the way, we got about eight more minutes. Is that okay? That's fine. Awesome. What's one thing that's changing kids over the years? For example, a high school senior graduating in two thousand three, which was, I think your first year is different from a high school senior graduating in two thousand nineteen.
But how? Or maybe not, well, kids themselves are no different. I didn't consider any of any of your class any different than any of the kids I grew up with. I think what really is different is the times, you know, because of technology because of social media, because technology is making things, you know, basically putting it at our fingertips, making things easier for us and and, of course, creating all kinds of different pressure.
I just think kids air under so much more pressure now than when I was in school. Even so, when you were in school on DH, it's just because you know just that social media aspect of everything you're expected to look one way you're expected to act one way you know, the the bullying that happens on on social media and nowadays, it's just it's just unreal. You know, when I was growing up in a kid, you know, if if somebody was bullying you, it was a face to face thing.
And so you know, there were There were ways to solve that. You know, if you didn't want to get bullied anymore than you could take matters into your own hands. And nowadays, on social media, kids can bully each other and do it with, you know, do it Anonymous. Andi. Even then, you know, even if they're doing it out front, it's still your typing on a keyboard, you know, looking at individual in the face.
And it always amazes me. You know how quickly a child nowadays will change their tune when they have to face somebody face to face. Burst is doing it digitally. It's just it's different. And I feel bad sometimes for the kids because of these pressures, that technology and, you know, social media and those things that put on them. But in the same shot that, you know, I envy a too. I mean, I wish I would have had access to music like I do now.
I mean, I can. I can pull up her absent any time I want basically pull down any song I want by any. Just about any artist out there You wanted any John or you wanted. And back when I was growing up, You know, I was lucky if I made it to the mall once a week and then, you know, I got to pick one cassette tape out, and then I had to list. That's all I had to listen to. So I would run that cassette tape into the ground listening to the whole thing, because if it wasn't on the radio, I had no clue was even out there, You know?
And and you guys have that available to you now. Kids, especially now, have that available to him. You know, I didn't have those things. Um, I don't think social media was was the thing that it is now. When you were a high school junior and senior, I think just just come on. Yeah, once I may just start early, remember signing it for Facebook. Probably like over the summer. And that had been out a few years.
But it had that's blossomed until then and going college. It's like, Oh, yeah, this how we keep track of people. And once people kind of got it figured out, it became this whole culture. And right, Like you said, there's people bowling in all the pressures and all the people. Psychologists have had time to study, like the effects of this invention, and, you know, the the way it changes people because, you know, people only take pictures of them doing awesome things.
And so it appears that, like everyone's happy all the time, But you, you know, it's just it's a weird sort of thing. It is, it is. But, you know, it just goes back again in my original point. I don't think kids were any different in nineteen ninety when I graduated. When you graduated, then when the kids, you know, we're going to graduate this May I just think the time's around. Children have changed, which has forced them to react differently to, you know, surviving in society.
Because it is, it's just it's just a different world. I always joke with the kids, you know, I never had a tracking device on me. You know, cellphones. Nowadays, parents contract their kids wherever they're at what they're doing, you know, and call him at the drop of a hat. You know, my my mom sent me out on a Friday night to go out on a date with a quarter in my pocket and said, If you don't make it home by curfew, you better give me a phone call and I'd have to go find a payphone.
Otherwise, what went on for that four, five or six hours while I was out? She had no clue. It was really up to me, too, To make the decision to stumble and fail and do stupid stuff or not do stupid stuff. Where's nowadays? You know, a lot of these kids, you know, they're they're they're basically a phone call away on and, you know, and again different different pressures, you know, just creates a whole different pressure.
And, you know, in a relationship between a parent and child, a teacher and child society and a child, it's just totally different is totally different. It's not like helicopter parents more like R F I D. Parents. People never would have guessed that would have been like this, and who knows how far it's going to keep going So, um, just a few more lighter questions here. Light, but deep questions as we, uh, in this off here, um, so answer these with just like a few sentences had say, what's more important, conviction or compromise?
Fifty fifty. Okay, I think they're fifty fifty. What is the healthiest cultural shift you see developing today? Um Wow. I don't know. I have never actually thought about that. I don't have an answer for that. Cool. Now you're now you're going to think about it on the ride home. What gives you the most optimism? Um watching kids succeed every day. Seeing them succeed, even at the smallest of things gives me optimism that you know the future's gonna be all right.
Awesome. If a crystal could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future and anything else, what would you want to know? Um I got to say I don't think I'd want to know anything. Ah, if I knew too much, then there'd be no surprises in life. Cool and last question. If you were a ruler of the world, what would you do on your first day? I was ruler of the world. What would I do on my first day? Um, what's tough question to Joseph?
I'd say first day would be about finding a way to bring humanity together. Cool. Awesome. Well Ah, Ray Spiller. Mr. Spiller, we talked a lot about pride in this interview, and I'm proud to always have been your student and proud to have had you. Ah, talk to me for this last hour. Two innocent of you. So thank you so much. So we appreciate that. Joseph, thank you for allowing me to do this. You know, I say it all the time, and I'll say it directly to you.
Now. You probably taught me as much as I taught you. Uh, I hope most teachers figured that out in life. It's the kids have a lot to offer. And I have. I've learned a lot from my students over the years and learned a lot from you. Nothing like that first trip back from junior high districts and listening to you head bang in the back to a Bach for a few. Well, there you have it. Thanks, Mr Spiller. Thank you, Joseph.