May 26 • 12:19 PM

McCloskey's key

Almont band director unlocks expressive aspect of music, named 'Teacher of Year'

Almont Band Director Brian McCloskey leads students through opening ceremonies at last year’s commencement exercises at Almont High School.
January 16, 2008
ALMONT — Brian McCloskey knows that music is more than a series of notes and sounds—it is an expression of the human spirit.

The desire to help young musicians unlock that expressive spirit fuels McCloskey's passion, and caught the eye of the 29-year-old band director's peers who named him 'Teacher of the Year' for the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association District 3. He's been teaching in the Almont School District for the past six years.

Encompassing Lapeer, Huron and Tuscola counties and portions of Sanilac, Genesee and Oakland county, MSBOA members take nominations for the designation in the spring, and vote to award the recipient at the end of the year.

"I was actually quite surprised," McCloskey says. "There are a lot of directors that have been around a lot longer than I have. I was surprised that I was even nominated, and very honored to be elected."

McCloskey spreads his talents across the district, teaching 'beginning band' at the elementary school and directing the middle and high school bands.

He says he loves his job, and was inspired to take music into the classroom by his own L'Anse Creuse High School Band Director Russell Robinson.

"I was involved in a lot of activities throughout my school years, but band was a big one for me," McCloskey says. "I always look up to my high school director. He was the best."

Like his mentor, McCloskey says he's a stickler for detail in the classroom.

"I have high standards, which is one thing a lot of students both love and hate. They hate it because I'm a perfectionist and I hear many students express 'I don't know if I'll ever get better,' and they end up doing so and being very surprised."

McCloskey says he likes to challenge his students, and is rewarded when they realize their own musical capabilities.

"Last year I wrote a piece for them and at first they said 'no way,' many thought they couldn't do it but they ended up playing it very well," he says.

The piece, 'Fantasia Myth of Ancient Greece,' is among two original compositions for band McCloskey has penned. The other was premiered by the Eastern Michigan University Wind Ensemble.

Currently studying graduate level composition, McCloskey says it's the emotional aspect of music that he hopes to convey in the classroom.

"I love it when students learn to love music, when they realize that it's more than just playing notes and rhythms," he says. "When I enforce the expressive part of music it means a lot to me when they get it and do it themselves. It transforms them. They get to express themselves in a way they're never able to do in a regular classroom."

McCloskey says he's honored by the 'Teacher of the Year' award, and says he is grateful for being a part of the Almont community.

"The support I received from the parents, the students and administration and from the community is outstanding," he says. "It is very much appreciated."

The appreciation is mutual, says Almont DDA Director Nancy Boxey.

"Brian is an excellent director and we're very fortunate to have him in our district," Boxey says. "He provides a wonderful learning experience for all the kids in our instrumental music program."

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