Eric Gallaway and Jake Rhodes have something in common: they’re both band directors in the Marietta Public School system.
Past that, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum and in more ways than one. Rhodes is getting married this summer, while Gallaway has been married long enough to raise two children and send them off into the world. Rhodes graduated from college a year ago, while Gallaway received his degree before the turn of the century.
But perhaps the most notable way they’re poles apart is that Rhodes is just finishing his first year as a professional educator, while Gallaway is completing year number 30.
“They tell you in college that your first year is a whirlwind, and that you’ll quickly see which skills you have mastered and which ones are not so good, and that’s so true,” Rhodes said, “ but what they don’t tell you is how much there is to learn and how stressful it is trying to be a better teacher.”
That’s why, Rhodes insists, having Gallaway as his mentor has been a godsend.
“A lot of first year band directors are all by themselves, out in a band hall somewhere,” he said, “so having him has been helpful, even in the simplest ways. I’ve had Mr. Gallaway to bounce ideas off of, to pick his brain and share his wealth of experience, and just for him to reassure me that even if today didn’t go so well, I get another chance tomorrow. He’s been a huge help to me and he’s a great guy.”
When the year began, the two weren’t really sure how to best team-tackle the program that Gallaway had been running alone for so long. They decided that Gallaway would continue with the high school band and Rhodes would take over the beginning band students in sixth and seventh grades, which he loves, and Gallaway insists he’s really good at.
“Band isn’t like math, where one-plus-one is always two,” Gallaway explained. “When you get into the arts, there are many ways to approach teaching. The kids seem to enjoy and identify with the methods he uses, and it doesn’t hurt that he is a genuinely nice guy and really cares about the kids.”
As the year has progressed, they’ve moved to more of a tag-team approach.
“The high school kids are beginning to realize that the new guy knows what he’s doing, and with two of us, we can cover more ground,” Gallaway said. “For years, I’ve had to prioritize and haven’t been able to do all I want, but now one of us can pull out groups that need more attention and work with them separately. It’s been great for our band, and we’ve had several people tell us that we’ve never sounded better.”
Recent contest scores substantiate that claim.
Both Gallaway and Rhodes recognize that they’re different people with different styles of teaching and getting things done, but they also agree that their personalities are complimentary, and they work well together. On paper, and in reality, it’s a match made in heaven – or in this case, in a superintendent’s office.
“The band program is such an integral part of our school community and has a huge impact on school spirit and student morale,” said Superintendent Brandi Naylor. “We were pleased to be able to make an investment in our band and I’m very excited to see how the program has expanded and excelled during the school year.”
Gallaway and Rhodes have obviously found ways to work together for the good of the program regardless of the differences in their experience levels. But that begs a question: while Rhodes is stressing over surviving his first year, where does that leave Gallaway in year 30?
“The difference in year one and year 30 is comfort,” stated Gallaway. “It’s a hard job stepping in when you’re the only band teacher in the district. I used to really stress over that, but now I have benchmarks where, in my head, I can tell if I need to push or slow down. Also, I’ve been around long enough now that I have a network that I can call for help. When I started, I didn’t have that.”
Interestingly enough, Gallaway also spoke about his mentor, Jeff Dooley, and how much help he provided for the first few years of Gallaway’s career. He’s pattered himself after Dooley in that manner.
“I don’t offer suggestions, but if Mr. Rhodes needs me, I’m here,” Gallaway said. “Mr. Dooley provided that mentorship with me and it was invaluable, so I try to do the same. There are a million ways to run a rehearsal, and I let him do it his way.”
Gallaway is eligible for retirement in three years but doesn’t think he’ll be ready.
“For a while, my goal was to get to be the band director for my kids. I was able to do that and it was a blessing,” stated Gallaway. “Now I have a new goal of bringing Mr. Rhodes online so that when I do retire, he’s ready for a seamless transition. I think he’s in for the long haul and he’s going to be a good one.”
Rhodes’s goal is a little different.
“I think my first year was a success, but I have a lot of room to grow. People say that when you have your first year under your belt, you know better next year, and I’m looking forward to that,” he said with a smile.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m trying to be just like Mr. Gallaway, but I do greatly admire his ability to stick with this job through the ups and downs. When he reflects on his career, he can see that he had a lot of kids who weren’t just great musicians, but also grew up to be great people. And I hope to someday be where he is now, looking back on 30 years to see what I’ve accomplished.”