From Low Brass to Army Brass to the Classroom, Ward is making a difference.
Art-form teachers tend to wear a lot of hats. Kevin Ward, Max Abbott Middle School Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 school year, has a full rack: he teaches orchestra at the middle school, is an adjunct professor at Methodist University, and arranges sheet music for Lindsey Sterling. On top of that, he promised his Mom, who passed away in 2018, that he’d continue his education, which he’s doing by pursuing a doctorate in curriculum instruction. “I want to have a huge dash on my tombstone. I want to make sure I’m making a difference,” Ward bashfully shares.
We sat down in the MAMS cafeteria recently to talk about middle school orchestra and his path from the Army to the classroom. After playing around the world, he wound up in Fayetteville as his last duty post. A few months prior to retiring in 2017, the MAMS orchestra teacher position opened up. “I was very interested, but couldn’t commit because I wasn’t finished in the Army yet,” Ward explained. “Mrs. Crenshaw [MAMS Principal] called me again in November and said, “Well, the teacher we hired didn’t work out, so the position is open if you still want it.”” Now he was out of the Army and could tackle the challenge of a middle-school orchestra program. This school year, he took the orchestra to the NC Music Educator’s Association Music Performance Adjudication contest in Raleigh for the first time in seven years. He had eight students chosen by audition for the Junior Eastern Region Orchestra. Some of his students play with the Fayetteville Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Arranging music began in the Army. “I had to think outside the box about these arrangements” because of the potentially random assortments of instruments a particular performance might have. He did over 350 arrangements and compositions for the Army; it was through this work he met Lindsey Sterling. “I wanted to arrange a piece of hers for our holiday concert, so asked her permission. She liked the work I did so much, she asked me to do more.” It helps that he enjoys listening to a wide variety of music, from more traditional orchestral pieces to the crossover electronica of Sterling to harder rock.
At heart, his genuine care for his students shines through. He’s researching the cognitive benefits of musical education for middle school students. He is actively fundraising for new chairs for his classroom on DonorsChoose.org, the sort of equipment cost that will make a huge difference for the students but the school system is not able to budget for. He is still teaching privately at Music and Arts on Morganton Road. His work on the Methodist University campus alerts him to opportunities for his middle school students, like the summer youth camps.
There is no doubt Ward is making a difference, for both his students and his fellow musicians. He would love for his next career step to be County Arts Coordinator for the entire school system. No doubt he’ll be able to make an even bigger, even better difference in such a role.