Oak Harbor Middle School band instructor earns top award

Oak Harbor Middle School band instructor Patrick Manuel was named Music Educator of the Year by the San Juan Music Educators Association. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Middle School band instructor Patrick Manuel was named Music Educator of the Year by the San Juan Music Educators Association.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

To Oak Harbor Middle School band instructor Patrick Manuel, real-world  experience, responsibility and learning how to work under pressure are vital to education. Manuel fills his band classes with these experiences and earned recognition for his band, and in turn was named Music Educator of the Year by the San Juan Music Educators Association.

The Oak Harbor High School graduate has been teaching for 13 years, eight of which have been in Oak Harbor. Before Oak Harbor, he taught in Coupeville and Stanwood. He even attended Oak Harbor Middle School as a beginning band student.

“I was pretty excited about it,” Manuel said of his award. The SJMEA encompasses a region from Blaine to Coupeville, plus the islands and Mount Vernon, which includes approximately 22 middle schools. He was presented with his award at the Washington Music Educators Association conference in Yakima.

Manuel teaches approximately 240 students in three middle school bands of different skill levels.

His constant belief in his students may be one reason he earned the honor. He teaches his students to pursue their dreams no matter who tries to crush their dreams and said youth shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I think kids have a lot of potential to do great things,” Manuel said.

And his students have. Since 2004, Manuel has taken his advanced band to the regional SJMEA competition and earned “superior” ratings every year. “Superior” is the highest honor a band can achieve at the competition. For a few years in a row, his band received the highest scores of any bands before the competition was changed into a festival without such competitive scores, Manuel said.

In 2010, the band auditioned to get into the WMEA convention as a showcase band. They were selected to play during the morning concert hour at the conference in Yakima.

“After performing at the WMEA convention, I thought it was fun to get students to experience playing outside of Oak Harbor,” Manuel said, adding that students should get the experience of playing for other audiences than their parents.

The following year, Manuel wanted to go even bigger so his band and band parent support group raised money to take 56 students to the Heritage National Band Festival in Anaheim, Calif. The band raised $55,000 in 10 months, which covered everything from a charter airplane to buses to hotels.

“I liked seeing the community come together to support us. It says a lot about our community that they support the arts,” Manuel said.

The band received second place at the festival.

This year, Manuel took his students to the WMEA convention in Yakima again but this time, the band was chosen out of 46 applications to play during the evening concert hour, which is a highly sought after performing opportunity.

While they may be enjoyable, these trips aren’t vacations, Manuel said.

“I consider them a real world experience for students. Just the learning how to pack the right things, being responsible for luggage, being on time, packing their instruments and music really teaches them responsibility and professionalism,” Manuel said.

Taking their music outside of Oak Harbor also teaches students what it’s like to be professional musicians. Professionals travel a lot and have to perform in front of strangers and adjudicators, not just in front of parents, Manuel said.

“Experiencing performances out of their comfort zone improves their ability to perform in different high pressure situations, which builds confidence and character. I feel these high pressure, high stress experiences will carry over into other parts of the students’ lives,” Manuel said.

When it comes time for the student to do a job interview in front of four people, the student can remember playing in front of 2,000 people, Manuel said.

Band class alone teaches students math, reading, writing, science, art, physical education and real world skills like learning to work together, responsibility and problem-solving, Manuel said.

“Music teaches students to be more expressive. Music is good for the brain and teaches students to be able to execute several academic disciplines all at once. Music teaches students to become passionate and passionate about life in general,” Manuel said. “They learn how to recognize the beauty in art and how to create beautiful art.”

That doesn’t mean band is easy, though. Rehearsals are difficult and learning music takes work. Manuel said he pushes his students to reach their full potential; if he didn’t, that would be the same as a math teacher not correcting all the problems on an assignment, which doesn’t teach students.

“The joy of success after a great performance will remain with them for the rest of their lives,” Manuel said.

“I would like to thank my parents and my wife for supporting me with my musical endeavors. I am very fortunate to have students, parents, fellow teachers and community members who support the Oak Harbor Middle School band program,” Manuel said.


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