Leader of the Band

Following some useful early assignments as a teacher, UTC grad Jamey Critchfield lands his dream job as a high school band director 

by Shawn Ryan

When  Jamey Critchfield  was hired  as band director  at Black Fox Elementary School in Cleveland, Tennessee, he was a bit nervous.  It was his first teaching  job  in an  elementary school.  

“Up until this appointment, my only experience in an elementary classroom was in my  Elementary  Methods class at UTC,” he explains. “When I was student teaching, I specifically asked for a high school and middle school placement because of my focus on band.”  

learning experience for the teacher 

After graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2017, Critchfield was hired for the 2018-2019 school year to cover for a teacher on maternity leave. He  was in the  Black Fox  classroom for a couple of weeks  with the teacher  who was soon  going on leave, picking  up some valuable tips and advice.  His time at the school also taught him valuable lessons about time management  and, he  says, not joking in the least, “a lot about the attention spans of K-12 students.”  More than anything, though, it  reminded him  that  his passion lies  in the world of band music.  

A native of Cleveland, Tennessee,  who graduated in 2013 from Bradley County High School,  Critchfield arrived  at UTC in fall semester 2013  to  study  music education. He chose  UTC  because it was close  to home  and, as a former trombone player in the Bradley County High school marching band, he was interested in  the University’s Marching Mocs.   

Critchfield  says  faculty in the Department of Music “not only provided performance experience for me, personally, but inspiration and motivation to better myself as a musician.” While at the University,  he  met  Kenyon Wilson,  associate department head and professor in the Department of Music,  who  was always willing to help young musicians, Critchfield says.  

After  earning a degree, it took him a while to find a full-time job but, in  early 2018, he was hired to cover another  maternity leave  for a teacher  at McMinn County High School and Athens City Middle School in Tennessee. The position  allowed him to teach band every day until the end of the academic year.  

Tyner High calls 

After  Black Fox,  he was hired as band director at Tyner Academy where he now teaches  9th through 12th  grades  in the high school and  6th through  8th  grades  in the middle school.  

When  the  COVID-19  pandemic  hit following his first year at the elementary school,  Critchfield was thrown into a new world of  educating and fostering students’ passion for music  while  also finding ways of  making  music while dealing with the complexities of  the virus.  Due to the situation, some of Critchfield’s  6th  and  7th grade classes were switched from  band  to  general  music. “There were a  few differences for sure, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he  says. “One difference is the length  (of time)  that I have the kids in my class. In my band classes, students have my class all year long. I see the same students every day for the whole year. This is great  because it helps me to cultivate their playing abilities and musical talents.  

“When I teach  general  music, I only have a group of students for a quarter of the year. The next quarter,  I have another group,  so that by the end of the year I’ve had four different groups of students for about nine weeks each.   

“With the shifting phases of in-person and virtual learning, it would be very hard to keep the students I only have for nine weeks to get placed on an instrument, and then develop enough skills to be able to play it long term when they would only have it for a short time during the school year.”  

Still, Critchfield hopes he’s  teaching  students “how fun band can be.”