JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Grant Harbison, the director of bands for Jonesboro Public Schools, was in for a big surprise Monday morning as he was awarded our November Teacher of the Month.
As the son of a JPS band director and a former band student, Harbison has always been around music.
Harbison was active in the school band while he attended JPS and went on to graduate from Arkansas State University, then the University of North Texas.
When he completed his master's degree at the UNT, he decided to begin teaching instead of performing.
He began his teaching career as an assistant band director at West Memphis High School and went on to serve as the assistant band director at Annie Camp Junior High School, where he once attended school. Just one year later, Harbison was promoted to director of bands at JPS.
"I grew up around all of these people that I work with," Harbison said. "It's really nice to be able to give back to the place that gave so much to me."
Harbison's passion for music shines through his students.
He worked with the school district to make sure some of the students had access to private lessons.
"Individual achievement is what's most important to me," Harbison said. "It's just like tutoring, it gets them further because they can learn more in a 30-minute lesson than they can in a 2-hour rehearsal with 100 other kids. It's going to help them get further in their career and life."
Participating in the school band isn't only about instruction in the classroom, it's a place where students can escape the harsh realities some of them face day-to-day.
"The band at Jonesboro High School is the largest, most diverse group of students," Harbison said. "We've got black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, trans, everything. I tell my kids our band room is a sanctuary. It's where you shut out the outside world and you can focus on you, and you can focus on making music and nothing else really matters. Just live in the moment of we're in this rehearsal and we're going to make art everyday."
When his students prepare for the next chapter of their life, Harbison said he hopes he's helped equip them with the skills they need and that they know he's available to help guide them in that direction.
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