Ep. 126: A day in the life of a middle school band teacher – Why our front-line music workers do what they do, and what the pandemic has really meant for their vocation. With Veronica Tonus

Band class

Photo by Bruno Justo Pego on Unsplash

Band directors very often are the ONLY teachers of music many kids will ever have access to. Without them, many of our country’s kids would have no musical experience. Get a glimpse of a day-in-the-life of these front-line music teachers, why they do what they do, and myths about their vocation.

Veronica Tonus
Veronica Tonus


Veronica Tonus has been teaching for 12 years, and is in her ninth year with the Davis Joint Unified School District in CA. She is currently teaching 5th and 6th grade band at two elementary schools, as well as the band classes at the local Junior High School. Veronica has a Masters in Music Education. Her main instrument is the flute, but she can play you a good “Hot Cross Buns” on anything else you hand her. Veronica is one of four co-hosts of the podcast, AMusEd: Four music teachers discuss current issues in music education; offer resources, tips, and tricks; and catalogue their growth and missteps made as young teachers.


We discuss:

  • What motivates band teachers to do the work they do.
  • “Front line worker” came into our vernacular thanks to covid. All teachers, maybe especially music teachers, have become front line workers with our kids. How has the pandemic impacted this facet of being a music teacher?
  • A typical day in the life of a middle school band teacher – IS there a typical day in the life of a middle school teacher?! What might surprise us about a typical day?
  • What has the pandemic really meant for this vocation?
  • Myths or misconceptions about the field of band directing.
  • Veronica is one of four co-hosts of AMusEd: A Music Educator’s Podcast.

Connect/Other Resources

In-Episode Promo

The Business Side of Music podcast


Veronica says: During the first shutdown of the pandemic, after transitioning to distance learning, several of my 8th and 9th grade band students worked remotely with a composer named Jarryd Elias to commission a piece of music for concert band as a gift to me. Each of the students contributed compositional material and worked with the composer directly on their ideas, and eventually they performed it as a virtual band and surprised me at the 9th grade graduation ceremony with this gift of music. They had been inspired by my stories of my college band director, Dr. Eric Hammer, who had passed the previous year, and who had meant a great deal to me. He influenced every part of my teaching and musical growth, lessons which I paid forward every day to my students. It is titled Onward, which was his favorite and most iconic signoff. 

Closing Words

And that is a little bit of the song “Onward,” by Jarryd Elias and Veronica’s former 8th and 9th grade band students. As Veronica mentioned, this was inspired in part by Veronica’s stories of her own college band director, Dr. Eric Hammer, who had passed the previous year, and who had meant so much to Veronica. The title “Onward” was Dr. Hammer’s favorite and most iconic signoff.  I LOVE this story, and am so impressed with these students. I can’t imagine a more meaningful gift to a teacher – this is right out of Mr. Holland’s Opus! This past week, I got to be a part of the MMEA convention here Minneapolis – that stands for MN Music Educators Association – and got to interact with so many band, orchestra, and choral directors. Between those experiences and this conversation with Veronica, I have such profound respect for these front line music teachers and the ways they impact our communities’ youth and next generation. Thank you to all of you! I want to give a shoutout today to a listener who left a review on Apple Podcasts recently: conman12 left a five-star review entitled: Thoughtful, Compassionate, Curious★★★★★ Mindy’s podcasts are wonderful explorations into the many ways music impacts our lives. Her guests bring great insights and her questions reflect her passion (and compassion) for the topics. Listen and learn! And, to make it even better, she’ll put a smile on your face! Thank YOU so much – you put a smile on MY face! I really appreciate you taking the moment to rate & review us and leave the encouraging message. That is a huge support and really makes a difference in helping others find the show. If you enjoy the show, I’d really appreciate you also leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast app you use to listen – you can also go to Podchaser.com to leave a review. All links from today’s episode – including a link to Veronica’s podcast and a transcript of this episode – can be found in the show notes; this is Ep. 126. All links are also in the episode details right in your podcast app. As always, you can reach me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  Thanks so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.

View Episode Transcript

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