Marching into a new era

New band teacher at Iola Middle and High schools chose Iola because of its rich history and support for the arts, especially music. Playing in band teaches students how to be part of a team, she said.

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September 23, 2020 - 10:25 AM

Brandi Holt is the new band teacher for Iola Middle and High schools. She chose to come to Iola because of its history of support for the arts, especially music. The Iola Municipal Band dates to 1871, making it one of the oldest continually performing city bands in the nation. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

New band teacher Brandi Holt has a message for her current and future students that is even more appropriate in the COVID-19 era:

“Nothing is too difficult. It’s just unfamiliar.”

That principal is guiding Holt through this new job and these new times, too.  

“When you’re learning something new, it can come across as really challenging, but it’s just that you haven’t done it enough. If you approach a new skill with that mindset, your success is limitless.”

Holt, who teaches grades six through 12 at both Iola High and Middle schools, chose to come to Iola because of its rich history, especially when it comes to music. The Iola Municipal Band dates to 1871 and is one of the oldest continually performing city bands in the country.

She also was impressed by the Iola Symphony Orchestra and the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. She plans to join the symphony.

“Iola supports the arts, and that’s the kind of community I want to live in,” Holt said.

Music, of course, is special to her.

But being part of a band brings a variety of advantages to students, she said.

“Playing in band is also like playing on a team,” Holt said. “It teaches students how to be a team player.”

Band teaches students to be accountable, as others are relying on them to know their part. It teaches them how to collaborate, how to evaluate what’s going on around them. It teaches discipline and responsibility. 

“They are going to leave here a well-rounded person, both as a person and a musician,” Holt said. “Band will give them the tools they need to function in society, whether they go to college or into the workforce.”

Learning to play an instrument also can help with a student’s performance in other areas. Studies have shown improvements in brain function and learning for those who learn to play music.

“That’s something they are able to transfer into other classes,” Holt said. “It’s something you aren’t even aware is happening, because your brain is firing in other areas.”

HOLT grew up in an Air Force family, which means she moved around quite a bit as a child. Kansas is the seventh state she’s lived in.

She was born in Mississippi but spent most of her life in Warrensburg, Mo. She attended college in Michigan for a year, then finished her education at the University of Central Missouri where she earned her undergraduate and master’s degree in music with an emphasis in conducting and flute performance.

She’s a flutist but also plays all of the traditional band instruments — anything you would see in a band setting: woodwinds, brass, percussion. She’s not quite as accomplished with string instruments, though.

She calls herself a “loud” teacher and laughs, “I’m sure some people would call me obnoxious.”

“My style is very outgoing, very friendly. I want to be approachable, not just to my students and their family members but also to the community. I want to get out there and get involved.”

She and her husband, Timothy, recently purchased a home in Redding. They have five cats. Timothy works in Ottawa as the general manager for Applebees.

PLAYING instruments during a pandemic is a bit of a challenge, as it requires many students to blow into an instrument and disperse into the air.

Students wear masks during Holt’s lectures. They take them off to play, and Holt has arranged their seats into straight lines instead of a curve, so all the air is blowing into one direction rather than at each other.

The room is sanitized at the end of every day with an air ionizer, and Holt must wipe down chairs and instruments.

Performances may be a little different, too, as crowds are limited with social distancing.

Holt hopes to grow the band, which currently has 16 members at the high school, 18 in the middle school advance band and nine in beginning band.The jazz band has seven members each at the high school and middle school.

It was difficult to recruit new band students for this yeast because of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools at spring break, as well as the fact that Holt is new this year. She plans to do more outreach to fifth graders to interest them in joining band when they move up to sixth grade.

“That is always my goal,” she said of her intention to increase the size of the band.

She’s looking forward to helping students develop different styles and wants to encourage a love of playing music that will last long after they graduate. She hopes they continue to pick up their instruments and play, perhaps as part of a city municipal band or just for fun.

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