When thinking about what it takes to run a band program smoothly, the first thing that may come to mind is all of the helping hands behind the curtain.
While the band director is the main driving force, backing him up is a strong team, which often includes his graduate assistants (GAs). A graduate assistant is one who serves in a support role at a university, usually while completing post-graduate education.
In Troy’s band, the GAs are there to help Mark Walker, the director of bands, and to gain experience for future careers.
Kaitlyn Manker, a graduate music education major from Holtville; Megan Roberts, a graduate music education major from Fort Walton Beach, Florida; and Jordan Guy, a graduate instrumental music education major from Enterprise; are first-year graduate assistants for the 2018 band season.
According to Roberts, being a graduate assistant changes how students spend their time on campus compared to when they were undergraduates.
“The biggest difference is that it is not just our classes,” Roberts said. “Our job is actually where we get most of our learning from.
“Most of our classes are hybrid — online and in person — so we don’t actually go to classes every day. Most of what we do is spent running everything for the band program.”
All the GAs serve very different, but equally important roles.
Manker serves as the Admin GA and is in charge of attendance and instrument inventory. Roberts is the Logistics GA and organizes all trips, dealing with rooms, schedules, etc. and oversees the budget. She also communicates with all of the band’s outside vendors and other departments on campus.
The librarian GA for the band is Guy. He provides and disperses music to all of the major ensembles (the ones not privately run by faculty), drill for the marching band and all of the folios used in the stands.
Even when their time is consumed working for the band, the GAs have their own office spaces available in order to get school work done between handling tasks for their job.
Kaitlyn said once she mentioned her interest in becoming a GA, Walker set up an interview and she got the job. All three GAs mentioned working under Walker was simply “fun” and “a good time.”
“He is very good at teaching us life lessons just through experiences,” Roberts said. “A lot of what we’re learning from him is more from the conversations and from hanging out with him outside of work hours.”
When asked what their favorite part of working with the band from an outside perspective was, they all said it was getting to listen to the Sound of The South (SOTS) play every day.
“Listening to the Sound of the South from the front sideline is something that everybody hopes to experience,” Guy said.
All three GAs are aiming to acquire as much experience and knowledge as possible before pursuing their careers.
Guy said he mainly wants to take advantage of the opportunities and resources available to him.
“I just want to learn everything there is to know about brass, and so I’m here to use up all the resources and spend time with the faculty,” Guy said. “Just to get to know everything that they know, hopefully.
“I really love brass. I want to specialize in that.”
Manker and Roberts said they just want to be around this environment to gain more exposure in their desired areas.
“I want to be a band director, so I’m trying to get more experience out of this so that I’m not just running around, not knowing what’s going on my first year teaching,” Manker said.
The GAs gave advice for college freshman, not only those in band but in general, on how to be successful and have the fullest college experience. They expressed how important it is to get out and get involved in student organizations.
“You can go to class and do all your homework,” Roberts said. “But if you’re not making relationships with other people, building friendships and finding things to do outside of just your homework, then you’re not really getting the most out of your experience.”