College of Education alumnus Matthew Martindale felt more than just new job jitters when he took over as director of the Pride of Shelby County Marching Band. His predecessor had served the program for more than 20 years, and the music education graduate now found himself leading the oldest, albeit smallest, band in Shelby County.
“The students and community truly embraced me,” he said. “I knew this was going to be a special place when a senior trombone player said, ‘Welcome to the family,’ early in the school year. As the year progressed, the students started calling me ‘Martindad,’ and our teacher/student relationships continued to grow.”
Something harmonious happened between “Martindad” and the students, and he was recently named to Yamaha Music’s inaugural “40 Under 40” music education advocacy program.
“This is an extreme honor,” Martindale said. “The impact it has on my students has been extraordinary. They began to realize that their hard work and dedication were the reasoning behind this award. While it was an individual award for me, it is a direct reflection of the students. I am only as effective an educator as my students display.”
Yamaha launched the “40 Under 40” program to celebrate and recognize outstanding music educators who are making a difference by growing and strengthening their music programs.
Martindale perhaps stood out most as an educator who had strengthened his music program. The Pride of Shelby County was in need of many upgrades when Martindale took over – including new uniforms, as the existing ones were 18 years old. He worked with the boosters to fund a portion of the cost. Then he launched a capital campaign and secured sponsorships that brought in more than $15,000, which was enough to purchase uniforms.
He also received two major grants totaling $22,500 to buy and repair instruments for the middle school beginner band program.
“This will allow our beginner band students to participate for free for many years to come,” Martindale said. “This increased enrollment in band across both Columbiana Middle School and Shelby County High School.”
During his second year, Martindale changed the music the band performed from classic rock to a completely different Dia De Muertos half time program he created, which “introduced the students and our small rural community to this Spanish style of music and pageantry. This creative move won the band recognition as ‘Best in Class’ in all categories at a competition that year,” wrote a parent in one of Martindale’s “40 Under 40” nomination letters.
After winning, his students continued to improve and “at our last competition, we were not victorious, but all their scores had increased dramatically,” Martindale said. Even though there wasn’t a trophy, his students believed they had won.
“If you can get your students to realize that competition is only one aspect of growth and that improvement is more important, then you can be happy as a director,” he said.
It was Martindale’s time as a student at Auburn, and the professors he worked with, who influenced the type of teacher he is today.
“I had three major influences during my time at Auburn,” he said. “They all taught me different aspects that I bring to teaching each day.”
Dr. Rick Good, director of bands at Auburn University, was Martindale’s primary instructor in wind conducting and was the director of symphonic winds when Martindale was a student.
“He taught me about passion for music and intensity,” he said. “I still say many of the same things he would say in rehearsals. He also taught me about becoming a lifelong learner.”
Dr. Matthew Wood, associate professor of trombone, is who Martindale credits with helping him become an independent musician.
“He taught me the aspects of playing, and he also taught me compassion and reasoning, which as an educator, you must use daily.”
His music education courses were taught by Associate Professor Dr. Jane Kuehne, who he said was always a calming presence in his week.
“I felt at ease leaving her classroom and hope that I can bring that to my students each day,” he said.
Because of those who poured into him, Martindale hopes to do the same for his students.
“My philosophy is that we do not teach music, rather we teach people through music,” he said. “If I teach the students in front of me who they are and shape them into a better version of themselves each day, the music will take care of itself.”
The values of the Auburn Creed, Martindale said, have been instrumental in shaping his work ethic in his career. He specifically appreciates the opening lines, “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn.”
“During my time at Auburn, I learned that I would only obtain what I worked for. I faced many challenges in the music department, but as I applied myself, those challenges became the way I advanced. I used that same work ethic to build my career. I am very fortunate to be working in a system, school, and community that I love and have a passion for. As a result, I am doing the best teaching of my career and hope to expand on that as the years continue.”