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.”