USD 382 vocal music instructor was recently awarded the SWKMEA music educator of the year award.
Kansas music educators recently recognized USD 382 vocal music instructor Brandon Wade for something he has known about himself for a long time. On November 9 Wade won the Southwest Kansas Music Educator Association’s Teacher of the Year award. It is a great honor, but he has known his life would be about music for a long time.
“Ever since I was six or seven, I knew I wanted to be a music teacher,” Wade said. “Music is just who I was, and still am today.”
Wade said great elementary teachers instilled a love of music in him at an early age, even though he could barely sing himself.
“I was tone deaf and sounded terrible,” he said. “My sister, now she was a natural at making beautiful music, but I had to work at it.”
Wade started taking piano lessons when he was in third grade, and joined band the following year, starting off with the saxophone, then euphonium and percussion instruments. He was a jazz pianist in college at Pittsburg State University and has played in several different bands since then, including with church friends at Pratt.
“Music is my life,” he said. “I enjoy it very much.”
It’s a good thing Wade enjoys music because his job at Pratt schools keeps him very busy. As vocal instructor he teaches vocal music at Liberty Middle School and Pratt High School. Both programs have seen exponential growth since he took over the department in 2012.
“At LMS I had 11 students when I started,” he said. “Now we have 97 in middle school choir.”
At the high school level, Wade has gone from 41 students his first year of instruction, to now over 100 five years later. To provide opportunity for all those who want to participate, he developed four different choirs at the high school level. The Chamber Singers, Robed Choir, Pratt High Singers and Woman’s Chorale provide outlets for singers of different levels to enjoy learning how to sing and perform.
“I credit the administration here for the continued student interest in choir,” Wade said. “My first year here, the schedule just made it impossible for many students to be in choir. I suggested some changes and the administration backed me 100 percent. They have been just great to work with.”
Wade gives vocal singing lessons to more than 20 students from around the area, including Stafford, St. John, Hutchinson and Fairfield. He also continues to take vocal lessons himself.
“The neat thing about music is that there is always something more to learn,” he said. “My voice lessons have just opened my mind to what is possible. It’s just amazing to understand what is physically happening for singers to make certain sounds.”
Wade’s vocal teacher is Dr. Brian Winnie at Southwestern College in Winfield. Someone he learned to know when helping out with summer music camps there through the years.
“He uses the Estill voice technique,” Wade said. “It is a different pedagogical take on how voice and muscles work together to create different sounds when you sing a certain way.”
Wade teaches what he learns to his students. In addition to teaching vocals, he also coaches junior high football and high school basketball for the district. He admits he could not do all he does without his wife, Amanda.
“She is just pretty great,” he said. “My wife is awesome and supportive in so many ways. The highlight of any day is when I see her coming to watch our performances.”
Wade and his wife own a special dog, Dodger, a half Corgi-half Border Collie, who came to Lemon Park Saturday to hear the Pratt High Singers perform. It’s those little out-of-the ordinary things that keep from him from getting burned out with such a busy schedule.
“We love it here,” Wade said. “I love my church (Abundant Harvest of the Nazarene), the community of Pratt, the administration at Pratt schools. This is our home.”
Wade has had offers of employment from other schools looking to improve their vocal music departments, but he said the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Besides, he has plans to ad an additional choir at the high school sometime in the future, maybe a freshman boys and girls group, or just a men’s chorale. He is always thinking ahead of ways to share his love of music with others.