A Spotlight on Jason Tucker

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX

 

 

Jason Tucker is currently the Director of Bands and Music Department Chair at Rice Middle in Plano, TX. Mr. Tucker holds a degree in Music Education, with Distinction in University Honors, from New Mexico State University and a Master’s in Secondary Education from the University of North Texas. His professional affiliations include the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), Texas Bandmasters Association (TBA), Texas Jazz Educators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association (TMAA), The National Band Association, The American School Band Directors Association, and the Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity. In addition to teaching, he is an active clinician, adjudicator, and curriculum consultant.

Although he did not realize that he wanted to be an educator until late high school, Mr. Tucker had been exposed to high quality music for most of his life. His father, C. Larry Tucker, was the band director at Plano East Senior High School for the school’s first seven years, followed by eighteen years as Director of Fine Arts for Plano ISD, and inspired Jason with his passion for the art and ability to motivate the students. Tucker’s other mentors included his teachers Travis Smith (at Williams High School in Plano) and Dr. Bill Clark (at New Mexico State University). From these educators, Tucker learned valuable lessons like helping children understand complex musical concepts by “applying the abstract to the concrete.”  The best teachers, Tucker believes, are those with the ability to make music enjoyable and therefore “trick students into learning;” an approach he learned as an assistant director to Jeannine Belch.

Tucker is celebrating his twentieth year as the Director of Bands at Rice Middle School, a position he has held since the campus opened in 1999. Under his direction, the program has been recognized at both the state and national level for outstanding musical achievement. The Rice Middle School Band has earned consistent sweepstakes (a perfect score) at the UIL Concert and Sight-reading Contest and numerous other honors including being named Best in Class at numerous invitational contests, TMEA State Honor Band Finalist (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2017), winner of the Mark of Excellence National Windband Honors Project, Most Outstanding Texas Band Program (American School Band Directors Association Texas Chapter, 2012), and recipient of the Sudler Silver Cup (John Philip Sousa Foundation, 2014). About his methods, Tucker shares that he operates “under the assumption that the kids want to be there and want to practice” and makes every effort to “maintain the initial enthusiasm.”

In addition to his work with the band department at Rice Middle School, Tucker also collaborates with the middle school orchestra director, Barbara Gordy Fox, to co-direct a full orchestra. This project, which Tucker and Fox began in 2003, provides musical opportunities primarily to the eighth grade musicians. About the project, Tucker shared that he personally “loved playing in the full orchestra in high school” and wanted to give “the kids something unique and special to be a part of.” The ensemble has only appeared at UIL contests a few times, but has been recognized at numerous invitational festivals and was named a TMEA Full Orchestra State Finalist in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017.

As a young music student, Tucker recalls the “intangible experience” of hearing a Francis McBeth work commissioned by his father in 1998. He believes that commissioning a new work of music is an important part of giving back to the music community and an excellent way to instill in band students an overwhelming sense of pride. Since heading up his own band department, Tucker has commissioned more than ten works for band including Kalanu by Julie Giroux, Keltic Dances by W. Francis McBeth, Earth, the Gentlest Mother by Christopher Tucker, The Seal Lullaby by Eric Whitacre (consortium), But Joy Comes… by William Owens, Fanfare from Here Below (for brass and percussion) by Brian Beck, The Tempest (woodwind choir) by Jasmin Limqueco, After the Storm (woodwind choir) by Jasmin Limqueco, Homage to Bharat by Brian Balmages, Infinite Hope by Brian Balmages (consortium), Frogs by Randall Standridge (consortium), and March of the Arachnids by Randall Standridge (consortium). This enormous contribution to the music community has helped to bring recognition to the Rice Middle School Band program and will bring joy to music students for generations to come.

To aspiring music educators, Tucker advises attending professional development and finding a mentor. Symposiums and clinics, Tucker believes, are “incredibly important” and are part of a necessary growth-mindset that successful directors must have. “The best educators,” he shares, “never stop learning or asking for help.” He reminds young teachers to employ a certain level of humility and to “listen more than you speak” in order to absorb as much information from other educators as possible. His personal goals for the future are to “continue to get better” and to “give students memories that last a lifetime.”

 

 

Follow Mr. Tucker and the Rice Middle School Band

 

 

 

Book and Music Suggestions from Mr. Tucker 

Rochester Symphony Orchestra

“What to Listen for in the World” Bruce Adolphe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Interview on July 28, 2018. Texas Bandmasters Association Convention. San Antonio, TX.

Rice Middle School ISD. “Our Directors: Jason Tucker, Director of Bands and Music Department

Chair.” Web. July 25, 2018. <http://www.ricemsband.com/our-directors.html>