College of Education Music Education student Shane Colquhoun has been named a quarter finalist for the Grammy 2019 Music Educator Award. The Auburn doctoral student is the band director at Loachapoka High School, where he also serves as the varsity basketball coach.
“My understanding is that there were about 2,000 nominees for the award, so I feel good to be selected as a quarter finalist,” Colquhoun said. “What the Grammy people are saying is that I am being recognized for the way I have built relationships with the students as well as their families and the community at large. I’ve been at Loachapoka for ten years now, and have been selected twice as teacher of the year. When I got there, we only had two students in the band program. We’re now up to 70 members, plus many more students taking music class. So to me, it’s all about relationships.”
Colquhoun is originally from Brooklyn, but he moved to Orlando with his mother at age 12. He joined the band program at Ocoee Middle school, where he also played basketball.
“I’d pretty much say that band and basketball were my life,” he said. “In high school I played junior varsity as a freshmen, but my passion was playing drums. I especially loved the marching band, which led me to become a music-technology major at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. I worked with some really inspiring music educators there, and as it turned out, music education was going to become a central part of my life.”
Following graduation in 2006, Colquhoun was recruited to Auburn for his Master’s by Music Education faculty members Kim Walls and Jane Kuehne.
“Dr. Kuehne saw something in me that I did not even see in myself,” Colquhoun recalled. “She always told me that I was going to be a great teacher one day. Dr. Kuehne, Dr. Walls, and Dr. Nancy Barry all encouraged me and made the program engaging and accessible.”
While things went well in the classroom, coming to Auburn from an HBCU was a culture shock for the aspiring music teacher.
“Bethune-Cookman in terms of demographics was totally different to Auburn,” he said. “For starters, the Auburn campus was huge compared to anything I had seen, especially in a small, traditional Southern town. Football games were also drastically different; I rode my bike to campus every day and went to every football game that first year. I was amazed at the spirit and how everyone stood up the entire game. It was all just very new and different to me. But I felt the family love here, no doubt about that, especially from my professors. I became part of the community and got to know several of the area’s music educators. I had a good job in the Digital Research Lab on campus. And fortunately, I was introduced to Loachapoka by Dr. Kuehne as part of a research project she and I were working on at the school.”
In the fall of 2007, Colquhoun began teaching classes at Loachapoka High School as part of his practicum requirements and research project with Dr, Kuehne. These lessons consisted of technology in popular music. As a result, Colquhoun built relationships throughout the Loachapoka community, and upon receiving his Master’s in 2008, he was hired to resurrect a music program that had essentially withered away.
“The Loachapoka community is rich in spirit,” Colquhoun said. “I love the relationship and community aspects of the school. The parents are very supportive and the students love it there. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to go other places over the years, but something special keeps me from leaving. And now that I am the varsity basketball coach, there is even more to look forward to.”
The Loachapoka music program receives virtually no financial support, so it must raise its own funds to buy instruments and uniforms.
“We do what we have to do to provide every student with an instrument and a uniform for the marching band,” he said. “That means a lot of work outside of regular classroom activities. We take at least one overnight trip a year to some sort of competition. We march in the Mobile Mardi Gras parade. For our halftime shows we play popular music that the students listen to, but for our concerts we play traditional band literature similar to what you’d find in any music program. I arrange the music, write the drill marches, and plan all the trips. It’s a year-round activity, but the reward is that we have a lot of excitement from our students and their families for our program. And the students are great musicians. So much talent is in that small place!””
With a total enrollment of 220 students in grades 7-12, Colquhoun finds a way to work with virtually every student.
“For those in our band program, I try to get each student to play more than one instrument,” he explained. “For example, I require that every student in the band learn not only a traditional band instrument, but also learn a modern band instrument such as piano and guitar.. I want them to be lifelong musicians. For those students who are not in our band program, I want to be sure they are exposed to music, as well. I teach classes on music production, and show them ways to use digital technology in the music world. I believe very strongly that all students should study music in one form or another.”
While teaching at Loachapoka, Colquhoun earned a second Master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2014. He cited the excellent examples of Drs. Jim and Maria Witte in that department.
“They were amazingly generous with their time and expertise,” he said.
Colquhoun hopes to complete his doctorate by December. His dissertation topic examines teacher preparedness to teach non-traditional music in secondary schools.
“Unfortunately, in most schools, 80 percent of the students receive no music education, and there are so many ways to engage them,” he said. “My dream and my goal as a music educator is designing a system where all students have access to and are involved in some sort of music in school.”
Colquhoun has a busy life. His wife works in the Chemistry Department at Auburn, and they are parents to a one-year-old son. As he writes his dissertation, he is also gearing up for a new season of marching band and getting his team ready to win on the hardwood.
“Let me say again how much I love our school and community,” he concluded. “A lot of people don’t know how good Loachapoka is and how much potential for growth there is out there. I want to continue to do my part to make it the best it can be.”