Dr. Owen Bradley, Band Director at North Port High School, Joins the Club

Dr. Owen Bradley, Band Director at North Port High School, Joins the Club

For the past 20 years of his 32-year teaching career, Dr. Owen Bradley has been the  band director at North Port High School in Sarasota County. Looking back on his career choice, he says he can't remember a time when he didn't want to a band director and now, as his final years in the profession draw to a close, he is reflecting on the changes that have occurred: "In the past, the most meaningful thing about my job was making music, now...it's about the relationships I get to build with students."
How has technology impacted his profession and the students?
Who else can say they took their band to Italy 6 weeks before a pandemic broke out?
Should Music Performance Assessment scores be used in music teacher evaluations?
How does a young band director build trust, respect, and classroom discipline?
All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast.
Come along and join the club!

• Northport High School Band Facebook 

• Redlands Grill Website & Facebook

Sarasota Orchestra Website & Facebook & Instagram & TwitterYouTube

State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram

State College of Florida Foundation Website & Facebook & Instagram

Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)


Robyn Bell: Today, I'm talking to one of my favorite types of guests, a kindred spirit in the world of high school band directing as many of you know, that's how I got my start in this business. And I have my badge of honor of having lasted in the trenches for nine years. So the respect I have for those who have been able to make an entire career of it is super high. Dr. Owen Bradley is the band director  at North Port high school in Sarasota County, Florida. He went to Florida State University for his bachelor's degree in music education. He has a master's in instructional technology from Walden University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Argosy University. He's taught at Tomlin High School in Plant City before coming to the Suncoast where he was the band director at Southeast High School in Bradenton, Bayshore High School, also in Bradenton, and then had the opportunity to open a new school, which is always an exciting event for a band director and has been here at North Port High School for the past 20 of his 32 year teaching career. As I like to say, he is seasoned Dr. Owen Bradley. Welcome to the club. 

Owen Bradley: Thank you for having me. 

Robyn Bell: So I give a quick rundown of your college education and the different stops along your career path. But Owen take us way back back to the day you said, I think I'll sign up for band. How did you get your start in this business?

Owen Bradley: Well I knew I wanted to be a band director when I was. In 10th grade, 

Robyn Bell: 10th grade, 

Owen Bradley: 10th grade. Yep. And I I had a fabulous band director, you know, him as Bob Scheer, he was my band director and did a fantastic job, obviously very inspiring. 

Robyn Bell: And you want it to be just like him? 

Owen Bradley: I did. I did. I, you know, I said, I,  that sounds really cool. And I found out that through working with, he would say, go teach this or, you know, go work with the trumpets and I would do it. And , I was good at it. They would listen to me. You know, lo and behold, so, right. So I so I say, okay, well I could do this. And then like, I, you know, I, I'm such a music geek.  I like playing my horn.  I was a big fish in a little pond, you know Port Charlotte was back then. Just started in the eighties, the school had just opened. 

Robyn Bell: So this was Port Charlotte high school? 

Owen Bradley: Yes.

Robyn Bell: Okay. All right. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: I don't think I knew that. 

Owen Bradley: Yep. So  he opened it and we had our Intrepid little band pun intended,  and we did what we could do and I started getting.   Pretty good on my instrument and 

Robyn Bell: Which was trumpet 

Owen Bradley: Trumpet. Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Well,  three cheers for trumpet players. 

Owen Bradley: I know. Absolutely. Is there any other, I don't know now 

Robyn Bell: I think you just ask me, 

Owen Bradley: so yeah, that's how I did it and  somebody asked me the other days, one of my kids asked me, is there anything else you wanted to do? I'm like, no. I just,  knew that's what I was going to do. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah.  Similar situation in that, , I knew I was going to be a teacher. I was in band, but I also played basketball. And so I thought for a long time, I was going to be a basketball coach, like a history teacher and a basketball coach, but I always knew I wanted to teach in the schools and I wanted to work with kids on extracurricular stuff. But for me, and I often tell this story, I was at a summer music camp. As a 17 year old and I sat in rehearsal and there was like, so something remarkable happening. I mean, I had been in band since seventh grade and I thought to myself, sitting in rehearsal, I said, I have to do this every day of my life. But did you have a moment like that a moment where suddenly hits you or was it just this thing that revealed itself to you over time? 

Owen Bradley: It's weird.  I just can't think of a day when I wasn't going to be at band teacher. It's just weird. So I went to,  Florida State and went through that. And then my first job, I got to Tomlin Junior High school. And hopefully nobody remembers how terrible I was because I was the world's worst teacher, but we all were telling you that the principal,  my first evaluation, he goes, yeah, Well, not so much for the teaching, but what you make for it. I like the way you run up and down the bleachers there, you know, in your, you make up for you're very energetic and I'm like, Oh, well, thanks is anything about my teaching? He says, let's move on. You know, that kind of thing. I know. And then  I knew that Bob Sheldon, who's another legend in our, he was at Southeast High School and I knew he was leaving and Bob Scheer was going to take over for him. And I knew that I wasn't ready to be a head director no way, but I knew if I got with the right person, that could be, I'm a big mentor, mentee type of guy. I said, if I just kind of learned the ropes and can put my head down and learn, and the things that they don't teach you in college, 

Robyn Bell: which is a lot, 

Owen Bradley: a lot come to find out. Yeah. Right. And I, so I called him out of the blue because I had put in for. The position that I got an interview. And then I said, I called him up. And when I got the job and I said, Bob, guess what? He says? , Owen Bradley. I remember you. And I'm like, you blast from the past, I'm going to be your assistant. And it was amazing. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. So  as the head band director, he didn't have a say in who his assistant was going to be, 

Owen Bradley: Did kind of did.  It was weird because Bob Sheldon was the one who made all the decisions  so  Bob Sheldon had told him sort of, but it was a shock for him to,  actually, you know, 

Robyn Bell: But how cool is it for you to get a job where now your mentor was your hero and the person you wanted to be like growing up? What a neat experience. And so you were his assistant for a good while for 

Owen Bradley: three years, 

Robyn Bell: three years. 

Owen Bradley: And then Bayshore opened up 

Robyn Bell: and that was your opportunity to become the had cheese, as we say, right? Yes. And then you came here and I say here, because we're  on location at North Port High school.

Owen Bradley: Actually, I went from Bayshore and then Bob left to go open Lakewood Ranch. And the principal called me up and said, would you please consider coming back to Southeast? You know, to kind of pick up the pieces, because that was a, that was a huge thing. They had a huge, the entire Eastern side of Manatee County was going to Southeast and they had this huge program just hitting on all cylinders. It was 250 in a marching band. And when Lakewood Ranch opened up, Bob went over there because that's a phenomenal opportunity. And instantly the band went to half and had a hard time dealing. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Because a lot of those students then went to Lakewood Ranch, but similar. To you who had the opportunity to open this school North Port that was Bob's opportunity to open a brand new school. It's very exciting, whether you're a band director or football coach or whatever, to really be the person that starts it. And you get to pick the fight song and you get a, you know, it's just. Super cool. Well, Owen let's take COVID out of the conversation for a moment because we'll talk about that at length and that experience in a bit, but otherwise tell us what's the most rewarding part of your job as a music educator.

Owen Bradley:  It changes.  It used to be,  the music that I could make in the growth that I would see  in the students, in the personal growth that I would make. And it's changed over the years because now I've done just about everything I want to do in the,  profession. Honestly, I,  I'm never going to be in the hall of fame and nobody's ever going to,  mention me in the same breath as the great, but 

Robyn Bell: You don't know that. 

Owen Bradley: Well, we'll see. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So what's rewarding to you now in this twilight of your career 

Owen Bradley: Personal interactions with the students. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. The relationships we get to build with them and, 

Owen Bradley: And that the help that I can give,  because a lot of the kids are kids, especially this year. We'll talk about it later, but in the last decade or so, I've noticed that kids are they're broken. The families are broken. They're broken emotionally. There's unreasonable demands being placed on them at home and at school and for testing and everything else. And they just lose themselves. 

Robyn Bell:  Do you find this whole social media? I've gotten to have a phone in my hand. What is everybody thinking about me? Have you seen that change our students over time? 

Owen Bradley: Yeah, it's really eroded their self-confidence. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley: You know, I can remember the things that we would talk about when I first started It seems so antiquated now, cause everybody's instantly connected and everybody knows what everybody else is thinking and feeling 

Robyn Bell: and doing 

Owen Bradley: and doing. And it's just, I wish it had never been in it's the bane of our existence. I think 

Robyn Bell: it is. And you think about these students right now in high school and in 20 years, I mean, this is not going away. If anything, it's going to be worse. So what are they going to be like as 40 year olds? 

Owen Bradley: Right.

Robyn Bell: And who's going to be taking care of us in the nursing homes. You know, I've seen it. And I talk, we have a collegiate school on our campus at the college. So we have like six through 10th graders. And I talk with those principals and those counselors, and they said, it's unbelievable what the sixth and seventh graders, the emotions that they feel with this phone in their hand and all this connectivity. Yeah. 

Owen Bradley: They know things, they shouldn't too soon, you know, they, they just have everything open to them and they have to grow up too fast and have to know they're not mature enough. They haven't had enough life experience to process that type of thing. But they're open to hear everything. I mean, everything. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Everything. Yeah. It's coming at them. Totally. Totally. And I, I worry,  how can we find to use technology for good, rather than evil? And that's like the ultimate question for me every day. How can I, I tell the students, cause I've stopped fighting it with the phones. You know, I said, get out your phone and look up Johannes Brahms and pick your favorite photo and show it to your neighbor. Let's find a way to use our technology for good. It's tough.  And we may be already hitting on this, but tell me sort of the opposite. What's the least desirable thing about your job or the thing or things that  just make you cringe 

Owen Bradley: The constant barrage of new initiatives that come down the pike from  above the things that, you know, if you've been in  education for a while, you've seen pretty much everything and it just becomes a giant wheel.

Robyn Bell: It's just a cycle, 

Owen Bradley: It's a cycle, you know? And they  just hang the moon on every little thing that they have,  I don't want to call out any of our initiatives because of course I do all of them. Yes, absolutely. Yes. I'm a team player to the nth degree, but it's just ridiculous to me. I look at that and especially having a doctorate in education, as you know, I mean, we have to study these things. So we,  see the data, we read  the literature. 

Robyn Bell: And do you feel like an initiative that gets brought down and we implement it  were never given enough time with it to see if it really works.

Owen Bradley: Right.

Robyn Bell: All of a sudden three years later, or here's something new and you abandoned this that really could have been working, but you don't know. 

Owen Bradley: Right.

Robyn Bell: And now we have this new thing. Three years later, we abandon that this is kind of the cycle you're talking about. 

Owen Bradley: It takes five to eight years for,  success to actually be monitored. And we have a three-year cycle and you know, it's also tied to who happens to be a superintendent. 

Robyn Bell: Absolutely.

Owen Bradley:  The superintendent's reign is maybe three to five years, these days. And so they bring in everything, they change everything. And then, you know, that happens again, 

Robyn Bell: Very similar to the football coach, either pro or college, you know,  if in three years they're not winning and they haven't turned things around, forget it. What brings somebody else in? 

Owen Bradley: Right.

Robyn Bell: Here's a whole nother set of plays. Here's it's the exact same thing. The other thing that bothers me, I don't know how you feel about this, but the people making those decisions. An in the money that's tied to it. They're often not the people that are in the classroom, getting their hands dirty, know what's going on.

Owen Bradley: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. They forgotten or they're newly minted administrators where they,  be in the classroom for three to five years and say, okay, now I'm going to go into the administration part of it, you know? And I, I understand that cause that's what I wanted to do it once upon a time, because back then  administration would help teachers develop now it's you have to do what you're told. You have to implement what you implement and, results, results, results. And if your test scores don't go up, even not an A school, your job's on the line. 

Robyn Bell: It's high pressure 

Owen Bradley: Is very high 

Robyn Bell: And it doesn't really put the student's best interest first. 

Owen Bradley: I don't think so.

Robyn Bell: Yeah,  could you equate that , to band?  We have to go to the music performance assessments. Have you ever felt like a principal looks at your rating on a sheet, a one or two or three and says, Oh, your job's on the line. 

Owen Bradley: No. I've never felt that. 

Robyn Bell: No.  Isn't that amazing? How a math teacher cause that's their test, their grade and maybe whatever kind of bonus they get is on the line. But same as a band director, orchestra director, choir director, you redo it for our kind of self. I mean, I don't want to say self ego because the students benefit ultimately when we perform well, but those ratings and those scores never put our job on the line or never dictated if we're going to get our stipend or any extra bonus. Do you feel like it should be, is there a correlation there? 

Owen Bradley: I think to a certain extent.  It's important, especially for a teacher who's developing.  I think MPA'sare tailor made for feedback. So if you're,  trying to figure out  how do I be the best teacher I can be there. They're tremendously helpful. 

Robyn Bell: Right?

Owen Bradley:   Especially in high school, you know, this  we're beholden to what comes in. So we have no country if we, and we don't have any control 

Robyn Bell: blueberries.

Owen Bradley: Yes, exactly. It's not like you can say, you're not keeping the best ones at home and your feeder program, you have to develop that you have to develop a multi-layered program in order to be successful at the high school.

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley: And sometimes. Administration sees that. And sometimes they don't. So if they say, well, why doesn't this school across the way they're doing so great. Why aren't we doing really great? Well, because we don't have the same resources things that they have. And  it's almost gotten to a point where it's almost a cliche where they look at it and say, well, that's just an excuse. You know, it's you, 

Robyn Bell: When I taught high school Owen, I was asked by the local college band director to  talk  to their music education students about real life experiences in the day-to-day. Activities of a public school teacher. And I decided to frame that particular talk around the lens of what makes my job hard. And I made these packets for each of those future educators that contain field trip forms, bus requisition forms, the individualized education plan forms the form I had to fill out for a student that was suspended or put in ISS. So they could do band homework that week. The lesson plan form I had to turn in each Monday, what I call the paperwork of life for an educator. No, I left that job 13 years ago, and I know a lot has changed since then, especially, you know, with technology. But do you feel teachers are overburdened with all this paperwork or after 32 years, do you have a system down? So it doesn't get in the way with your rehearsal preparation and music-making, 

Owen Bradley: Would say that they are overburdened. I think they put way too much They, they try to make you a better teacher by process. And that's not what makes you a better teacher?  You can either teach or you can't, and it's not something that can be beat into your processed into you. You either have the talent to reach young people and talk to people and express yourself and connect emotionally, or you don't 

Robyn Bell: Including classroom discipline.

Owen Bradley: Yes. Classroom discipline is,  very simple. When  young teachers say, you know having a problem with discipline, the first thing I tell them is.  Your students allow you to discipline them.   First is courtesy, then comes respect. And once they trust you, they'll let you discipline them. They'll let you speak to them in an authoritative manner. Not until, 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And I've always said exact same sort of thing that every student really, truly wants to be in a controlled environment. They want, they don't want to be in the chaos. 

Owen Bradley: They want structure for sure. 

Robyn Bell: One structure, for sure. And so to teach young teachers. Particularly band directors where it's, I mean, go into a band room. If you're not a band director and it just looks like chaos, right? There's instruments. Everybody's playing something different.  You don't know when so-and-so the percussion section back there doing this. Oh, you have to have your eyes and ears everywhere. And it doesn't happen in year one, two or three.  That is a time for those teachers. To really develop that as you did, you know, and as  your first principal said, well, you know, we won't talk about that. Right. But now look,  when I go into your classroom, every kid's like, what can I do for you today?

Owen Bradley: Right.  That's been built over decades 

Robyn Bell: Totally.

Owen Bradley:  And here is the nice thing. I try to tell young teachers too, The grass is not greener on the other side, it's just different grass. So stay where you are and build something,  I'll tell you it was rough here. When I first started.  I could tell you stories, you know, but staying here long enough, this, the kids see that you're committed, that you're here, that you don't change. And pretty soon you get brothers and sisters and, you know, and you become. I don't wanna say an institution. Cause that sounds self-aggrandizing and I'm not trying to do that. 

Robyn Bell: No, but you're right though. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah. You become sort of a fixture right now and then  it's like a lore that goes down. He likes this. He doesn't like that,  don't do this, do that. 

Robyn Bell: And you find maybe the parent conferences are people upset with decisions you make, they get less and less because the whole community knows your expectations. 

Owen Bradley: Yes.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And you've become an expert communicator about that. There's no question. I expect this of you. And as I always tell the students, you better expect that of me, 

Owen Bradley: Right? Absolutely.  I feel like I have to demonstrate everything I'm asking them to do. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley: So if  I want them to be on time, I better be on time. If I want them to be prepared, I better have my scores ready.  I better have thought through the lesson. 

Robyn Bell: I remember one time when I taught high school band, I had a new color guard instructor first year. And we had a rule. I'm sure you, same marching band rehearsal. It's tennis shoes. You can't wear flip flops. You can't wear sandals as tennis shoes and a color guard instructor day, one band camp shows up in flip-flops and I said, you got to go home. Right? What do you mean? I'm the instructor? I said, no, we wear tennis shoes. And if you're late, that like day two showed up late.  You got to run your lap. What do you mean? I go. When the students are late, they have to run a lap. I said, if I remember late, I run a lap. So you get, Oh, that didn't work out too. Well, 

Owen Bradley: No, but if you truly want  that level of I don't want to call it control, but that level of buy-in 

Robyn Bell: yeah, 

Owen Bradley: You have to do 

Robyn Bell: You have to walk that same walk. There's no further drink in the band room. There's no food or drink. Even in my, I had a student teacher walk in what time of the big Mountain Dew. I was like, you can't have that in here, but this is the office. I don't care as part of the bandroom. Yeah, totally. Well, when we come back, Dr. Bradley and I are going to visit about his experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic as the band director at North Port High School this past year has changed a lot for all of us. So I'm very interested in how he has navigated his path over the last 12 months back after this break. 

  Welcome back to the Suncoast Culture Club Podcast where today I'm visiting with a band director at North Port High School in Sarasota County. Dr. Owen Bradley. Owen, where were you when you heard that school was not going to be resuming for the rest of the semester in the spring of 2020?

Owen Bradley:  We had just found out our cruise was canceled and we were walking the dogs and BING, we  get text message on our phone saying we're going to extend spring break for a week and we're like, Oh, 

Robyn Bell: You did immediately, you thought, okay. Cause I thought, okay, just one week we can do it, but you thought, oh, this is going to go on.

Owen Bradley: I did.  I turned to Amy and I said, look,  this is not going to go. And she's like, you're right. And our daughter at that time  was with us too, because of everything that's happened with this whole nother story, we get another podcast you can do about the hospitality industry.

Robyn Bell: That's why your daughter's in the hospitality industries. 

Owen Bradley: Well, very hard hit. So she was with us and we all looked at each other and we said, this is going to be bad. And it was so pretty soon it was two weeks. And then everybody was locked down. You know, if we had to, what was it? 15 days, 14 days to stop the spread. which turned into a month, which turned into, and then we get updates from the school saying, well,  we're not comfortable bringing everybody back.  And then pretty soon school was over back to do a completely online, but here's the thing they didn't teach us anything.  This is literally what they said. They said, we're going to come back. We're going to do completely online, figure out what you're going to do and let us know. No. Yeah. We had, like, they had like they said, take the rest of this week off and, you know, type a personalities.  One of the first thing we do, we get on our computer and we're searching for,  things that we're going to do. And how are we going to do this?  They set us up to fail. Sure. What they really did 

Robyn Bell: And the amount of information out there during that time. I remember  it was like every 10 minutes. It was new information coming at me. Here's how you do this. Here's how you do that. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: And I almost felt handcuffed now the opposite of that though, there's two ways to look at that. What you just described. Dr. Bradley, it's your band. You decide what to do or Dr. Bradley. Here's what you're going to do, you know? And I don't know which way is better because it is nice to have the freedom to make those decisions, but you felt kind of out on an Island I'm sure. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah. Cause I didn't know. They didn't communicate what their expectations were of us. Okay. And none  of us had ever considered doing this.  How are we going to get a hold of the kids? They're all scattered. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley:  Luckily  I had a remind texting thing that I did, already had some,  communication things, a Facebook page and a website and all that sort of stuff. But, what is your expectation of what you want us to do?  How are you going to hold me accountable for holding these kids accountable? It's impossible. How am I going to get them to show up? 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley: Okay. I'm going to give them a, Zoom link. We didn't know what Zoom was. We all had to learn. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, that's right. 

Owen Bradley: So I'm going to give them a link and this is what they're going to do and show up. And  it was terrible. It was frightening.

Robyn Bell: Jeremiah Bowman, you know, at Braden River High School, it said he literally got in his car and drove to kids' homes and was repairing flutes and things. So they could play and taken music to their homes. And it's like, that's crazy. So what then did the rest of that semester look like for you in the North Port High School Band? How did you facilitate band class once the school shut down? 

Owen Bradley: I'll be honest with you. I knew immediately that Whatever musical aspirations we had needed to be put on hold  the way the Sarasota County put it was, you need to treat him with grace and,  give him enough. And  we all know what we do to us is very, very important, but to students the academics are going to have to come first. So I immediately told my,  administration, I said, look, I'm gonna,  help focus them to make sure that they get through their academics and I'll figure out something that they can do will be very easy. For me it was music theory. I did  basic music theory stuff, and that would have a very short assignment that they would do that they could turn in online. I could track it. And then I said,  get that done and then do your rest of your 

Robyn Bell:  Much more simple and,  attainable than like Zoom band. And  I tried one of those acapella tunes and it was limited, you know, for free to like, I don't know, 30 seconds. And we had just passed out some new music in preparation for a chamber music concert we were doing. And I did my best, but you know, we would have seven or eight kids in an ensemble and kid number seven would mess it up. Right? We'd have to start over like, Oh, 

Owen Bradley: Well we were another thing. You know, everybody started making these amazing,  things conglomerations that they did well, 

Robyn Bell: We're not audio video engineers. 

Owen Bradley: Nobody understood exactly how to do with it. Okay. So that's what they said. Well, you know, I saw this on, it was fabulous. We saw them all singing from the Boston College or whatever, and I'm like, you have no idea.  I don't know how to do that.

Robyn Bell:   Can I borrow $5,000 to pay someone to do that? Yeah. 

Owen Bradley: And that's what it became,   those that knew how to do it were very successful and good for them. But for us,  that we're trying to  hold a band program together. Oh my gosh, 

Robyn Bell: Here we are now at the end of this year. And at the college,  we're worried for two reasons, we have the really three reasons. I guess we have a beautiful recital hall and a new addition to our building that's opening and we want music students just running around everywhere. And boy, the recruiting has been really hard this year. This is, I told your band today. Thank you for inviting me to come work with them. This was the first in school clinic that I've been able to do and reach high school students. And we've been, you know, through email and Facebook and, and beg, Oh, we have a Zoom info meeting. We have scholarship money. So we're worried about students coming, but then when you look at the big picture, maybe you can help me here. Should we be worried and not just,  us at the college, but in general, should you be worried in two years? did the kids miss 18 months of playing their instrument? Well,  is there going to be a gap in ability? Are they going to be two years behind? Is kind of 

Owen Bradley: Absolutely.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.  It's going to be a long rebuilding process. Some basic skills that  they didn't practice at all. I'm just going to tell you another thing that we didn't have access to all the instruments were here at school because. It's spring break, you know, they're supposed to take them home cause they're good band kids, but God bless them.  I want some time off, I'm going to do my thing and rightfully so. So they left them all here.  The County said, no, you can't have your instruments. So I said, how am I supposed to have band if they can't have their instruments, which led to the music theory. Cause that's the only thing I could do. 

Robyn Bell: And same problem with orchestra. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Owen Bradley: Orchestra , choir was one thing. I mean, at least they could sing, but 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley:   They don't have the things that they need to be band kids. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah.  And I see, even today, it was interesting, cause this was my first experience.  I came into rehearsal and you had the laptop sitting in front of the conductor podium and he said, these are the students that are here in the band room was full of kids just like us six feet apart. And then there were these eight or so students on,  zoom that were playing their instruments, muted, and,  you told me I couldn't really walk around the room and help. Cause you got to stay in front of that camera so that they can follow you and play along

Owen Bradley: Well. it's surreal.  As I told you, I said  having them have their microphones on. Would be problematic because  the digital delay, and everyone's going to be a little bit different. So if I pump that through my sound system and have them add to the ensemble, there's no way it would always be a precision problem. So it's not gonna work. So they have to do that. And then if I ever want to assess them, what I do is I use Flipgrid, which is  I'm sure you've heard of it. 

Robyn Bell: I have heard of it. I haven't used it, but I've heard of it 

Owen Bradley: Really super simple and brilliant. So I just have them doing the assignment to play for me. And then I listened to them individually and that's the best I can do. And I do allow them to come back for concerts. So we'll have an after-school rehearsal.  As long as their pantry are okay with it. And the school is okay with it. They can come join us for concerts and stuff. So 

Robyn Bell: That's a great policy. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: It's amazing, people have said that the technology in 10 months. Went so fast because of this pandemic, it could have been 10 years to have the same technology that we're using now just 10 to 12 months later. 

Owen Bradley: Right.

Robyn Bell:  And there was a huge learning curve where I sat on my Lanai because at our home is very open home concept and we just can't be in two meetings in the same house. So I would go out on the Lanai and  by noon, I had used 20 different applications, the experiment of this and this all  it was exhausting. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Zoomies.

Owen Bradley: Yeah. Well, for me, I never met with them real time when we were doing complete lockdown and I always did asynchronously. I would  have them respond to prompts and I would have them,  give me individual assignments and they would go, but I would never try to get them all in one place.  Honestly, I was too scared to, because I didn't know. What I was going to see. And  I didn't want him to see me at home. Number one. Right. It was uncomfortable for me because I always try to be professional and everything I wanted to have that I didn't have the technology that would make that happen. And we did not know at that time or their students would be mature enough to handle it, or whether they would just be completely inappropriate because they could say anything.  And in, in time with, with there's basically no concept. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. You talk about discipline in the classroom, zero in that kind of environment.

Owen Bradley: Yeah. So,  turned out that my fears weren't founded because as we found out in zoom, the kids were responsible and they really actually very good. Yeah. There's never been any kind of inappropriate thing. 

Robyn Bell: Now, you said you did the music theory thing. What percentage of your students really participated in that?

Owen Bradley: About 30%. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. Yeah. So, 70% just sort of disappeared. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.   And what I would do is I would, have a theory assignment. I would also have like just tell me, how are you doing? You know, just give me the check-in check-in right. And that was higher. They would, they would tell me what they're doing. They would this, I I'm wanting these movies. You know, I've, I've learned how to cook this, you know, whatever it is.  And that's what I'm talking about with the, with the relationship that you have. That was my,  biggest thing. Am I going to lose all these kids? You know, we had no idea. We didn't know where they were. We didn't know if they'd come back. 

Robyn Bell: What did you find when school started back in the fall? did you track those numbers?

Owen Bradley: You still have the folder of everything. Cause that's another thing that was exhausting because we had to write down who was with us, who was not with us  very, very detailed. And then we had to log  every time that. We demonstrated that we tried to reach them, how we had to reach them. Oh yeah. They were very, very insistent  that we thought, Oh yes, document everything. We were not used to doing that. Wow. You know, so I would spend a good part of my day. I would wake up   open my computer at 7:30, which is when my duty time started. And I wouldn't,  take a break until 1:00, 1:30 just doing the things I needed to do. You know, and that's not even grading the things that needed to be graded. Right. You know? So it, it, it actually ended up being comes last. Yeah. It was actually ended up being, some nights six, seven, eight o'clock.

Robyn Bell: Now, during that spring of 2020, did you have a trip plan? 

Owen Bradley: No. As a matter of fact, we, you know, thank God we, yeah, we had just come back from Italy in we did the New Year's Day Parade. 

Robyn Bell: So that was your trip. 

Owen Bradley: That was our trip. We had just come back. And it literally followed us. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Owen Bradley: We were so lucky 

Robyn Bell: what a great trip that must've been. 

Owen Bradley: That was fantastic 

Robyn Bell: to sort of the six weeks later. Yeah. Remember where we were on New Years. Woo. So what policies did Sarasota County schools Institute for you and your band classes? Once the fall semester rolled around, were you able to have like marching band camp and play at football games and all of that?

 Owen Bradley: Very limited. So  they lumped it under sports and whatever the sports were able to do, then  we were able to do and Lorianne really  had taken over the marching band. Cause I had decided not to do marching band. And I'm not the band director for marching band anymore. Kind of taken that off my plate as I get ready to retire. But she says you couldn't have picked a better time to do that. Impossible. So, and along came the, studies from Colorado, you have to have bell covers.  The aerosol studies and all that sort of stuff. And, you know,  I'm sure that they, really, really meant well, but really what they did was the people who don't understand what we do. They really scared them, 

Robyn Bell: Scared him. Oh, that's the word that goes through my it's. It's this fear. That now people that don't understand what we do have this huge fear of what we do and how we're going to infectthe whole world by playing a trumpet. 

Owen Bradley: Yes. Yeah, because they saw those things coming out of, you know, Oh my gosh, you know, 

Robyn Bell: That's death right there that flute. 

Owen Bradley: It'd be actually a bit better. If you could see it, you can sort of like, you know, say like stab at or something, you know, here comes a COVID Bing, Bing, you know, it would be much better if you could see it, but they could actually see the video game, a video game. It'd be great. 

Robyn Bell: I like your sound effects.

Owen Bradley: Yeah,

Robyn Bell: that's a good, and we,  sort of alluded to this before. Because we explained what my experience just was in your band rehearsal, but  how would you explain to somebody, what your band rehearsals and performances look like now for the North Port High School Concert Band? 

Owen Bradley: We're really lucky. So  we've given, this'll be our fourth concert and we gave our first concert in October.

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Owen Bradley: It was Halloween concert. And  I knew that if we weren't able to figure out how to do that, we were going to lose it.  If kids come to bandaid, come to man to perform 

Robyn Bell: That's right. 

Owen Bradley: Bottom line. So  I worked with the administration and I put on my best team player hat, and I said, what do you need me to do? Can I please  have this? And since we have such a nice hall, they said, well, we can open it at 25%. And,  as everybody's massed in and I had to show him that I could put everybody six feet apart, and follow all that. And they allowed us to, 

Robyn Bell: So 25%, how many people then can you sit in the North Port? Performing Arts Center? 

Owen Bradley: 250.

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: So it's a thousand seat hall. Okay. And did you have to  negotiate navigate parents. And you have to sort of take reservations, I guess. 

Owen Bradley: Yes.  I am lucky. I have a great band parent organization and they did all the heavy lifting for that. They worked with the administration  I'm telling you the first one  we were so nervous because  we were the first band in Sarasota County to do a performance. 

Robyn Bell: I remember that I saw it on Facebook and I went good for him. Yeah. 

Owen Bradley: So  if something would have happened, if we became a spreader event there, if somebody would've got COVID, I was scared to death that we were going to be the one I probably would have had to resigned right then, because, you know yeah.  I take that stuff personally. It worked out great. Yeah. Absolutely nothing. And then to now, every time we do a concert, we know how to do it now. And we give,  concerts that are, almost like what we did before. 

Robyn Bell: And are you still at 250 though? In the hall. Okay. All right. Well, I've talked many other band directors and orchestra directors about. Like the past standard practice of students sharing instruments  for instance, a ninth grade tuba player and a 12th grade to a player they're in two different band classes might play on the same tuba, you know, using their own mouthpieces. But that is a practice that I'm sure had to come to a halt during the pandemic was the North Port High School Band able to supplement your instrument inventory this past year to make sure each student had their own instrument to play. 

Owen Bradley: It just happened to work out. So I was lucky enough. And that was a big concern too, because yeah, no,  we can't share anymore period. So we had X number of instruments, X number of students. And  I only had maybe one or two students, I said, would you consider playing an Alto instead of a tenor or vice versa? Most of the kids had their own instruments. So it was good, but no, there was no money available for. You know, well, how many of them more instruments do you need? There's none of that. 

Robyn Bell: Wow.  I notice just like us, you guys have the bell covers and that sort of thing was,  the PPE money available through the County to pay for that. 

Owen Bradley: So we got a grant to do that. 

Robyn Bell: The band boosters got a grant who, who gave the money. 

Owen Bradley:  It was an edge of excellence grant.  So we were able to put that in and it was $500. And then honestly, that didn't cover it. No, no, it was tremendously expensive.

Robyn Bell: I've lost mine. And you're like, I don't have any more 

Owen Bradley: in washing them, you know? Cause they were like, okay, well we're going to collect them every day. And then we have to wash them every day, you know, and that kind of thing. 

Robyn Bell: And they deteriorate, 

Owen Bradley: Oh yeah. 

Robyn Bell: They're like pantyhose. 

Owen Bradley: I wouldn't know, but yes. Thanks for throwing that out! You were expecting me to say. Yeah, absolutely. And then you would think it would have been different of me wouldn't you? 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. I said, I'll throw that in there and we'll see where he goes with that. Well, I remember my high school band, our big fundraiser was the concession stands at football games and we made tens of thousands of dollars that really. Put forward our program. So  what has been the financial hit to your band programs, booster club through all this? 

Owen Bradley:  There's been no money coming in. Really? 

Robyn Bell: It's been decimated 

Owen Bradley: Decimated. Absolutely.  It's a whole nother story about how the school got together, but we never had any concession stand at the   football games, that was never something that we had. We had something called Season of the Stars here, and that would,  put money into the whole arts program. And  that was the way we did it. 

Robyn Bell:   Well, moving forward.  If you don't have a budget and you're not bringing a lot of money, that it puts a whole different perspective on music, you can purchase instruments that can be repaired, all the things that sort of make a band program go. So  what do you do going forward? 

Owen Bradley: Well, we're really lucky in Sarasota County. They have a fund for us for instrument repair. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, that is nice. 

Owen Bradley: And so that's actually pretty,  generous.  For my band parent organization,  we've raised a lot of money and over the years, we've been very frugal. So we have a good amount that they can  supplement with. You know, buying music. I've had to go to them more this year than ever. Cause I like to put me to new music in front, but the administration  as much as they can, they'll say, you know, what do you need? And as long as it's not outrageous, if I say, look, I just need,  $300 for music, , 

 Robyn Bell: I talked about this on a previous podcast episode with Julie Hebert of Manatee County Schools and that she and I were both campers at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival me in 1991 at the tender age of 17 in her a year later in 92. But the connection Owen for you and I is that in the summer of 1991, on top of Monteagle Mountain, Tennessee at the University of the South, I was a camper who every day, took an afternoon music theory class and lo and behold. My theory instructor at that camp was a lady by the name of Amy Tucker. Now Amy Bradley your darling bride. She was a very successful band director in Manatee County, and long before I came to the Suncoast, you and she played clarinet and trumpet in the Pops Orchestra that I now conduct. And as I often say, what a remarkable chain of connection that we have in our music and arts industry, it really makes me smile every time I think about it. And you two have lived here a long time and you've, I've been very active in the arts scene for a long time. So tell us what is the perfect date night for Owen and Amy? Where are your favorite places to eat your most beloved cultural arts events to attend? Where do you go on a night or maybe an entire weekend free here on the Suncoast.

Owen Bradley: We are so boring. This is going to be so disappointing. we're such homebodies.  We have a nice entertainment system,  with a big screen TV and everything. We watch movies. Back when we loved to go movies back when that was a thing, you know, so

Robyn Bell:  To go to a movie, to go to a movie burns court kind of movie, or like 

Owen Bradley: nothing that highbrow, no, nothing, not at all.  Thank you though. I'm thinking that it's, it's the latest, whatever it is on Sheila to go to.  We really are partial to what used to be called J Alexander's in Tampa, but it's, it's the Redlands Grill. It's really, really good. If you've never been there, it's worth the drive. Yeah. Yeah, that's what we liked it. We'd like to do that. We'd like to get away from, area and everything. But you know, perfect day for, for Amy and I is, she likes to do a little light shopping and then you go see a movie, maybe have dinner. Okay. 

Robyn Bell: And do you like to carry the bags? 

Owen Bradley: That's right. Yeah. She says this has been good. I said, sure. It does. Absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: Do you get a chance ever to go hear the Sarasota Orchestra or go to any, those kinds of events in town? 

Owen Bradley: As much as we'd like to, but  the things that we can do at Van Wezel. All we try to do. And then you know not as much as we'd like to cause we there for awhile, we were so busy and you know, Amy's health, 

Robyn Bell: right.

Owen Bradley: So it's not always. Doable. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Owen Bradley: We hope to do that when I'm retired. Finally, we hope to maybe do a, be a little bit more cultured, a little more height. 

Robyn Bell: You have a vision out there and about three years, what life could be like 

Owen Bradley: be a patron of the arts. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. Yeah. Well, and the other thing is I tell people when your hobby is your career and it's all blended together. Sometimes even if you have a night off, you just want to take a break. 

Owen Bradley: Exactly. Thank you for saying that. Thank you for, thank you for giving me the grace to get out of that one because. 

Robyn Bell: I tell people that all the time. 

Owen Bradley: Well, that's what my kids think. They think I listen to classical music all the time, band recordings all the time, jazz all the time. And I'm like, I hate to disappoint you, but no, you know, what I do is I turn the radio off and  listening to the engine on the way home. 

Robyn Bell: I want some silence and some peace. 

Owen Bradley: Exactly. Exactly. 

Robyn Bell: I totally get it. Totally get it. Well,Owen we have come to our rapid fire section of the podcast.

Owen Bradley: Okay.

Robyn Bell: Are you ready? 

Owen Bradley: No. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. I'm going to give you some either or some choices in the first thing that comes to your mind. 

Owen Bradley: Okay.

Robyn Bell: All right. , if you get all the right answers, you want a vacation for two and in Cancun. So I know paid for by the North Port High School Band Booster Club! 

Owen Bradley: The last thing that I did. Band director fired for you? Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Here we go.  I'm going to ask this, but I already know one of them is out because you talked about it. Marching band, concert band, or jazz band 

Owen Bradley: Jazz band. 

Robyn Bell: That's surprised me. I thought it'd be concert band jazz. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah, I do.  Have a secret passion.

Robyn Bell: And as a trumpet player, you prefer playing jazz over concert band literature. 

Owen Bradley: No, I really,   I enjoy jazz more as a player because I was trained classically and I had to learn the other language, you know? And then when I was teaching, I really had to learn language because I thought I knew, but I didn't know.

Robyn Bell: Didn't know, but now you're pretty confident in it. Pretty good jazz bands. Really good here. 

Owen Bradley: Thank you. I appreciate that. 

Robyn Bell: They came and played with our jazz band at the State College, Florida. Gosh, maybe three or four years ago now. And they were just fabulous. So they're great. All right. A day at the beach or a day at Disney 

Owen Bradley: Disney, you know, we have a saying in the Bradley household, paved the beach, not save the beach, pave it because I know sand. everywhere I'm not a fan 

Robyn Bell: dirty. Okay. A Sarasota Orchestra concert, or President's Own United States Marine Band concert. 

Owen Bradley: Oh, the Sarasota Orchestra. Absolutely. Because we can afford the tickets. The other one's free right now and 

Robyn Bell: they're free. I watch a football game or a parade. 

Owen Bradley: Oh, neither. Oh my God.

Robyn Bell: If you had to choose, I'd rather do a parade because it's shorter. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Yeah, my kids wouldn't I don't know. Yeah. It, I would rather do a parade. Yeah. That's for sure. 

Robyn Bell: To sit through a faculty meeting or to poke your eyeballs out scissors,

Owen Bradley:  please. Immediately. Not a problem. 

Robyn Bell: These are just horrible. Can you please give me something that's relevant to me? Yeah, I know. Bless their hearts. They try an angry color guard, mom or an angry principal. 

Owen Bradley: Ooh, angry principal, eh, yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Color guard, moms vicious. I don't know about you. When I taught high school, we had majorettes, the majorette moms were twice as bad as the color guard moms, their little girls could do no wrong. And I'm like, what planet are you living on? 

Owen Bradley: Right. Well, when I was at Bayshore, I had the Honey Bears. Yeah. I mean, they were, they were quite the thing. 

Robyn Bell: Dance squad. 

Owen Bradley: Oh yes. 

Robyn Bell: I forgot about that. A concert for the parents and community or performance for ratings such as music performance assessment 

Owen Bradley: Community every day. Yeah, absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. When I left public school teaching and went into college, that was the best thing is that I didn't have to look at some lists to pick music and I could put together programs that had, you know, more thematic and meant things in a different way. Yeah. Yeah. I couldn't go back to it. It's no, bless your heart. Yeah. You have one piece of music left to conduct in your life? What's it going to be? 

Owen Bradley: Oh God, you know what? This is funny. I, I don't say this lightly. I've done. Most of them. I've done Lincolnshire I've done Hounds of Spring. I've done the ones, right? One, one piece that I'd always liked to conduct. I don't know. I, okay. I'm just gonna throw that. Maybe maybe Carmina Burana, I'd love to do that. 

Robyn Bell: It is so much fun. Yeah. And there's that band transcription. If you get a good choir here and we own it at the college, you know what I did, I took the original with the orchestration. And I took the band version and I smashed them together. So the orchestra and the band of play together in the choir, that's like your last year. Yeah. That's a great, Oh, it would be, yeah. 

Owen Bradley: I would love to do that. Absolutely. And I think we could do it. Oh, 

Robyn Bell: You're on it. All right. Favorite band trip of all time. 

Owen Bradley: It's easy that the Italy trip I'm telling you, that was crazy. Good.

Robyn Bell:  Never go on another trip again. You'd be set. 

Owen Bradley: Yeah. Yeah,  we were rockstars there. I mean my little band, we had like 40 that went, you know, the kid that could afford $3,000 to go to Italy. But those kids, I mean, We practiced the rehearsals. And I said, look, we gotta be high energy. You know, we got to dance and all that sort of stuff. And they're like, they were so stiff and I don't think very uncomfortable. And when they got there, Oh my God. They just like completely, they were so amazing that the people were, were. Cheering and you turn around and all of a sudden there's the Spanish steps and it's completely covered with people and they're just shouting and yelling. My kids never stopped moving the entire time. It was an amazing experience. Gosh, I'll never forgot it 

Robyn Bell: happened before. Well, congratulations, Dr. Owen Bradley. 

Owen Bradley: Thank you. Fan. 

Robyn Bell: You are now officially part of the club. Let's say our listeners want to follow the North Port Band Program. Where can they go to, to get information about your,  upcoming concerts or ways they can donate to help your students with their music education?

Owen Bradley: Probably the easiest way is our Facebook page, which is North Port High School  Alliance bands. It's on Facebook. Okay. 

Robyn Bell: To search the search. Yeah. And so what we'll do is we'll put a link to that in our show notes. So if anybody's listening on our website, they can just click there and they'll go right to that Facebook page and see what all you guys are up to.

Owen Bradley: Perfect. Thank you. 

Robyn Bell: Well, Owen, we started our time together today with me getting to conduct your wonderful band on one of my. Favorite pieces of music. And I really appreciated that opportunity   and we end with all of us getting to know a little bit more about you and the rewards and trials of being a high school band director and the inner workings of the North Port High School Band Program, something of which you should be very proud of. You open the school 20 years ago, and you have set such a high standard for music education in Sarasota County. It is to be commended by friend. Time is very precious commodity, and I really appreciate you sharing your time and story with us today. 

Owen Bradley: Thank you. Just my, my pleasure.