Retired SCMS band director named to national board

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There is no such thing as retirement for Sheila Smith. 

The only band director South Central Middle School had ever had turned in her baton at the end of the 2016-17 school year after 30 years, but she didn't retire from being a music educator. 

She's just turned her attention to other musical endeavors, like serving a two-year term on the board of directors of the National Band Association, the largest organization for bands in the world.  

"I was humbled and honored to have been elected by my colleagues," said Smith, 52, who was voted in June 1. "I want to give back to the profession that has given me much joy and many, many rewards."

NBA President Dr. Scott Tobias, director of bands at West Virginia University, said the organization is “pleased to have Ms. Smith as a member of the board of directors.”

“She brings to the table a wealth of experience as a highly successful and respected middle school band director,” he said. “Her thoughts and ideas relative to the needs of middle school teachers will be invaluable to the NBA as we seek to serve our membership.”
Georgia State Chair Michael Oubre called Smith an “amazing band director with a very accomplished career.”

“I knew of her career before I got to meet her, and Sheila is a great source of knowledge, wisdom and stories about teaching,” he said. “The National Band Association is committed to helping directors in every stage of their profession, and Sheila will bring a wealth of knowledge to her role. Directors know who to call for help, and Sheila is one of those who always strives to make everyone better. It was apparent with her kids, and it is even more obvious with her colleagues.”

Since the board members are scattered all across the country, Smith said they "meet regularly by Skype or conference calls" to make decisions about the 58-year-old organization, which includes public school bands, college/university bands, military bands and community bands. 

"We promote the excellence of band performance throughout the world, assist directors at all levels of experience, provide a mentor program and resource packet for new teachers and encourage quality students to pursue careers in music," the Euharlee resident said. "In addition, we accept applications and provide grants.”

The organization also publishes a journal for all members four times a year, and Smith said she wrote an article for the upcoming fall issue titled “What I Wish I Had Known as a First-Year Middle School Band Director: Reflections of a Teacher of 31 Years." 

The board of directors will have a chance to meet in person during the NBA's annual membership meeting at the Midwest International Band Clinic in Chicago in December, Smith said.

"Most of the board of directors will be in attendance at this event," she said, noting roughly 18,000 music educators will attend the clinic. 

While she retired as a full-time middle school band director, Smith said she will "never retire from music."

"Teaching music wasn’t just an occupation for me," she said. "It was and is my life. I was fortunate to be able to work in a content area that I love with fantastic administrators and supportive colleagues along the way." 

Among those fantastic administrators was Bartow Education Foundation Executive Director Dot Frasier, who was the first principal Smith worked for after graduating from Jacksonville State University with a Bachelor of Science in music education in 1987.

"Mrs. Dot was a wonderful principal who gave me the support and encouragement I needed as a first-year teacher, and she made me want to be an educator for life," she said.

During her first year of retirement last year, Smith said she worked part time for Bartow County Schools, assisting with the Governor’s Honors Program and supporting the middle school band directors.

She said she’ll be doing the same this year, except she’ll be working with elementary music teachers.

Smith, who earned a Master of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago in 2000, also is a Georgia Music Educators Association certified adjudicator and often serves as the head adjudicator for state large-group performance evaluations; acts as a guest conductor for honor bands across the Southeast; and plays flute with the Georgia Wind Symphony and Tara Winds Community Band.

“I will be performing at the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference in Athens, Georgia, this January with Tara Winds,” she said. “I will also be guest-conducting at the Reinhardt Middle School Honor Band and at the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference.” 

At South Central, Smith was voted Teacher of the Year in 1989-90, 2000-01 and 2009-10 and was selected as a STAR teacher in 2009. 

Groups under her direction have performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference three times, the University of Georgia Middle School Honor Band Festival, the University of Alabama Middle School Honor Band Festival, the Reinhardt University Middle School Honor Band Festival and the Southeastern United States Middle School Honor Clinic.

In 2017, the SCMS band performed at the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. 

Besides belonging to the NBA and GMEA, Smith also is a member of Phi Beta Mu, the National Association for Music Education, the Georgia Association of Educators and the American School Band Directors Association, and she has received the Citation of Excellence awarded by the NBA multiple times.