LSHS band director shares his love and passion of musicLake Stevens High School band director Neil Proff has brought something almost unexpected to the Viking Band program; pride, which he fashionably wore on a T-shirt that he had printed for all the band members last year.
It simply read “Viking Pride.”
Proff brought with him an understanding of pride, and what it’s like to feel proud. This was one of the first things he did when he came to LSHS last year as their new band director, which was to give every band member a sense of purpose and pride.
This year the T-shirt read, “Excellence is a choice.”
High school senior Melissa Suller, who is a drum major and plays saxophone in both the wind ensemble and jazz band, says that Proff, or as known to his students as the “Professor”, is an incredible teacher..
“It’s been amazing having him here the last year and a half,” Suller said.
If you were to look around the band room you would find unity, but also individuality in every corner and wall of the room which displays some of Proff’s student’s awareness of the music around them.
The stigma of being in a high school band still exists, but it is changing.
“That’s one of the things that is really great to see, the kids interacting with their peers in the school,” Proff commented.
He even said some football players are in band now.
Although he was quick to point out that band is not a one time deal, it’s a process, it’s something that needs to be practiced just like anything else, otherwise you lose your skills.
When it comes to musicianship, and showmanship, Proff has hopes of being a top five contender in the nation competing against schools in Seattle like Garfield or Roosevelt.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done,” Proff said of the band. “Now their peers are giving them accolades for what they’re doing right. Ask any 30-year-old what they wish they would have done in school, and they say, I wish I would have picked up an instrument.”
In the band room, Proff likes to display words of wisdom for his students to read, learn, and do their best to live by.
One particular saying which hangs high above the band room reads, “No man is an island, if we go backwards it’s not one man’s fault it’s everyone’s. If we go forward it’s not one man’s achievement, it’s everyone’s. Our progress is a result of our unity, working together means winning together.”
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a very young child,” Proff said. “You know, it’s just kind of what a person does, and not necessarily what they dream to be when they’re older; it’s just how they are, you teach people the rules of the game and such.”
Being relatively young has given Proff an edge in being a leader, mentor, and teacher among the kids in band.
“The kids never cross the line and they know who’s the boss, we’re close and that’s the key. They understand that yes, I’m buddy, buddy with you guys, that’s great, but when it comes to the performance, practicing, and to fulfilling your obligations to the high school it is a priority,” he said. “It’s kind of a different level here, and they understand that this is a family where you take care of each other, that your weakest link is the one that needs the most help.”
He went on to explain how his first players understand that it’s their responsibility to help out the fifth players.
“It’s how the whole program runs. There’s a certain continuum that has to happen to make a really great program where the seniors are teaching the freshman, the freshman get better and become seniors, teach the freshman, and when you get that thing happening the program the possibilities are fairly endless.”
Proff didn’t hesitate to commend the Lake Stevens School District and faculty, but gave exceptional accolades to Superintendent David Burgess, Athletic Director Ed Bailey, and Principal Ken Collins for their responsiveness and dedication to the music program.
“This is a dream job,” Proff said. “We’re here to get the crowd fired up! Band geek for life,” he said while flashing a big smile.