Dear Teacher Feature Judges,
I am happy to forward the attached essays nominating Mr. William “Bill” Mattingly, Alta High School’s band and orchestra teacher for KSL’s Teacher Feature award. These essays are from each of my sons who had Mr. Mattingly as their orchestra and band teacher from when he first started his teaching career as a student teacher in 2005 through this coming June 2013 when my last son graduates from Alta.
Not only did Mr. Mattingly strengthen my sons’ love of music, but more importantly, a review of the essays will show the instilled strong virtues in them like the importance of thorough preparation for any task, setting high goals and working to achieve them, recognizing and then correcting mistakes, and the motivating force of trust and confidence in others.
Mr. Mattingly was the complete package that a high school band kid like me needed. He motivated me to always perform at my best, challenged me to push myself, and reinforced the belief that if you could play music, you could do anything.
My first experience with Bill Mattingly was when he was a student teacher. The main thing I remember from that time was that we had a student teacher who was “cool”. He was the kind of guy that made you linger around after the bell rang just to hear some of his parting jokes. What’s more, he worked well with our current band director, Richard Brunson, who was loved by everyone. When Mr. Mattingly took over as Alta’s band director my senior year, he made the transition much easier for the students and the music program.
Mr. Mattingly is the only person I know who can make a pep band feel like they’re an essential part of a school’s sports team. I will never forget standing around the band room before a big game, hanging on his every word as he pumped us up. He would say things like, “A good band can make the difference in a game by at least 6 points!” and “If we can dominate the Battle of the Bands, the Battle on the Court doesn’t stand a chance!” In those moments I honestly felt like I was in the locker room from Remember the Titans.
His enthusiasm wasn’t only for sporting events. Time and time again before our concerts and festivals he would say his classic line, “I don’t expect much… only perfection.” Mr. Mattingly wouldn’t allow us to settle for less than our very best, and demanded that we performed to our full potential.
My musical highlight as a senior was when Mr. Mattingly organized the year end Alumni Concert. He invited members of the Alta High band and orchestra from years past to join current students and perform themes from the Star Wars movies. Playing next to great performers, including music majors from local colleges and even the esteemed Julliard School of Music, inspired me to pursue my dreams of a musical career.
It’s no surprise that I got my younger brothers excited for their own musical experiences at Alta with Mr. Mattingly. He has kept a close eye on all of us over the years and as expected, has always demanded our very best… even if that meant perfection.
–Nathan Haines, Alta High School 2006
The first time Mr. Mattingly took the conductor’s stand, he told our high school orchestra that he was a jazz musician and not an orchestra musician. You would never have guessed this judging by his enthusiasm and dedication to our orchestra though. He was passionate about perfection in our orchestra and in himself as our orchestra director. He spent hours listening and reviewing our orchestral pieces and then would study the scores backwards and forwards to the point that he hardly looked at the score while conducting. He was committed to being the best conductor he could be and he expected us to do the same in order to become the best musicians that we could be.
However, he also understood that everyone occasionally makes mistakes. This became clear to me during our state orchestra festival. We had worked hard on our pieces for months and had already made it past the regional orchestra festival. The performance was going well until the highlight of our program. It was a large symphonic piece that involved a full wind and brass section. I was in the first violin section and we had a repeating pattern of quick notes that we played for a long time. The trick to this song was to keep track of where you were in the music because the whole orchestra would stop at the end of the pattern. I was playing this pattern as I confidently followed along in the music. When I had just one measure left, the entire orchestra cut out and I played four extra notes. The notes rang out in the silent auditorium like laughter at a funeral. Mr. Mattingly’s head whipped around and he looked straight at me. I was mortified. I wanted to sink through my chair, down the stage and into oblivion. Somehow I had gotten behind in the music by one measure and didn’t realize it until it was too late.
After the concert, I was sure that Mr. Mattingly was going to be angry at me for making such a huge mistake. I apologized profusely and waited for his reaction. Instead of being angry, he just quietly nodded and said, “It happens sometimes.” I was grateful that he understood that it had been an accident and that I felt terrible about it. Needless to say, since then I have always followed my music meticulously!
He also taught us how to believe in ourselves. My senior year, I auditioned for the leading role of our school musical and Mr. Mattingly was on the selection committee along with the school drama director and the choir director. I was selected for the role and it was a rewarding but challenging experience for me. Some of the songs were at the top of my vocal range and I sometimes struggled with the high notes. During the break of one particularly difficult rehearsal, I was playing my friend’s violin in the pit orchestra. Mr. Mattingly came over and jokingly asked if I missed playing my violin after singing so much. I told him that it was a relief to play the violin and finally feel like I was doing something well. With all joking aside, he looked me in the eye, pointed at me, and said, “We wouldn’t have chosen you for this role if we didn’t think you could do it. We still know that you can do it.” That was a turning point for me in my life. He believed in me, but I needed to believe in myself. It was a lesson that helped me in that play and in every one of my endeavors since then.
Mr. Mattingly didn’t just expect perfection from us. He truly believed in it.
–Aaron Haines, Alta High School 2007
I remember entering the Alta High School band room for the first time. I was nervous because I would be trying out for the Alta High School Jazz Band, but more than that I would be auditioning in front of Mr. Mattingly. My older brothers had talked to him a lot about me, and as a new not quite confident sophomore, I felt like they had talked me up way above where I really was. My brothers had told me that he was really excited to have me in the music program and had some great plans for me. And so it was that even before I had really met Mr. Mattingly in person, I knew he had high hopes and expectations for me.
As the months followed, I came to realize that Mr. Mattingly was a man who took his role as band director seriously. He gave us music that was difficult but within reach if we put in the effort. He was a teacher that I could call my friend but one that wouldn’t let me settle with mediocrity. He was a band director who inspired us to perform our very best and to work together. He comprehended the impact music could have in our lives and I even saw him defend the music program when its place was threatened in the general school curriculum.
He not only saw me how I was, but he helped me maintain the vision of what I could become if I stretched myself. I remember working and practicing so much on so many occasions because I knew what class of music Mr. Mattingly expected and I wanted to experience that joy and satisfaction it brought. It was with him that I began to understand that success without cost isn’t really worth it and doesn’t really exist. This is something I have come to comprehend and apply in various aspects of my life.
–Talmage Haines, Alta High School 2010
My brothers had constantly told me how great Mr. Mattingly was, but it wasn’t until I walked into the band room for my very first class on my first day as a new student at Alta High School at the beginning of my sophomore year that I finally understood why. My mother had passed away just the day before from cancer. Consequently, I was not really ready for much of anything, but especially for my first day of high school. Fortunately, my first period of the day was Jazz Band with Mr. Mattingly, and he immediately made me feel better. His sensitivity helped me settle quickly into my schedule. He became a good friend and always made me feel comfortable and accepted.
An experience with Mr. Mattingly that will always remain with me occurs at the end of each school year. He sits the Jazz Band down and speaks to each individual student. He spotlights the student on how they have contributed to the ensemble, his expectations from the student, and his excitement to work with them the next year, or his reluctance to let them graduate from the band if they are a senior. These individual spotlights are incredibly special to the student and reveal Mr. Mattingly’s love for those he teaches.
Someone who observes Mr. Mattingly for a day might say that he is not particularly nice to his students and demands too much from them. He does not throw around compliments like candy, but instead he specifically tells you what you need to improve and expects you to improve it.
This became apparent when the Jazz Band was scheduled to take a scales test in October. One by one, each of us played through the 12 major scales and arpeggios while Mr. Mattingly scored us. None of us received 100%; most of us did not get above 50%. After the last student finished, we glumly sat in silence while Mr. Mattingly tallied up our scores. Finally, he stood and gave us a brief but powerful speech about the importance of the scales as the building blocks of music. If we couldn’t play 12 scales, how were we going to play any jazz chart at any difficulty level? He was disappointed in our performance and told us that the whole ensemble would suffer if any one of us was not fully invested in the band. Needless to say, I and the rest of the band have practiced the scales religiously ever since.
Because Mr. Mattingly pushes us to our fullest potential, we are able to become better musicians and people. His love for his students challenges them to become the best that they can become.
–Joshua Haines, Alta High School 2013