Breckenridge Texan

Meet Joseph Firenza, the new assistant band director for BISD
September 01
13:50 2017

New BISD assistant band director Joseph Firenza is on the field checking on the new half-time show during a recent morning practice by the Pride of Breckenridge — Buckaroo Band. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

When the Pride of Breckenridge – the BHS Buckaroo Band – takes the field at half-time this season, all of the focus will be on the students and their new show. But, it’s the behind-the-scenes work that has been the focus of new assistant band director Joseph Firenza for the past several weeks.

Firenza assists Breckenridge High School Band Director Dane Richardson and also directs the junior high’s seventh and eighth grade bands.

The first-year teacher graduated from Andrews High School and Angelo State University before returning to Andrews for his student teaching work. There, he was under the supervision of Breckenridge High School graduate Darin K. Johns.

“We interviewed a few people, but (Firenza) had good references, and also he had a really good a good student teaching background,” Richardson said. “Darin (Johns) told him to check out the Breckenridge job. We had talked, and (Johns) said, ‘I have somebody good you need to look at.’ So, he had good references.”

Richardson said one of Firenza’s strengths is that he works well with kids. “He loves working kids, and they really seem to like him. They react well to him,” he said. “He really can take something that is difficult to do and make it fun to do.”

Firenza has a bachelor’s degree in music with an all-level certification. That means he can teach music from Early Childhood to 12th grade. “If it’s music, I could teach it,” he said.

His teaching schedule includes high school marching band, beginning percussion, brass class, a tutorial during lunch, an applied music class, the eighth grade band and a woodwind class. This year, there are about 70 students each in the seventh and eighth grade bands and 72 in the high school band.

The junior high bands don’t do any marching yet, but they will go to a contest and band festival later in the school year. This year is an advancement year for Breckenridge High School in the marching contest. That means, if the band scores high enough at each contest level, they advance through region, area and then on to the state competition. The BHS band last went to the state contest in 1998.

Firenza had a strong high school band experience, playing the euphonium, sometimes called the baritone. “I was an All-State band kid, All-State marching, solo and ensemble. I was a band kid. I didn’t do anything else but band,” he said.

He said he’s known for a long time that he would become a band director and music teacher.

“I came to that realization when I quit all of my athletics; I ended up just not liking (athletics) any more, but band continued to be fun,” he said. “I think my junior year was when I actually said this is what I want to do. It’s one of those things that you know it’s right, even though it’s hard, you know it’s right and you want to do it really badly.”

He said he still plans going to graduate school and might play music professionally someday. But, for now, he is focused on teaching.

“So far, it’s good. The staff is fun here, very supportive; the community is supportive,” he said. “This is one of those ‘nice’ jobs, not one of those ‘not so great’ jobs you hear about.”

Firenza worked with the high school bands at Andrews High School and at San Angelo’s Central High School while he was in college. Both schools are larger than BHS, but he said there aren’t many differences.

“These small school kiddos are more committed,” he said. “Attendance here is great. We have to fight attendance more at the bigger schools. We don’t really fight attendance or tardiness here. It’s really nice.”

Although this is his first year to teach, Firenza said, the students are already coming to him for advice on topics such as college or dealing with various issues. Some want to talk to him about things like video games. “That’s kind of nice to me because those kids are trusting me to actually come to me to talk,” he said.

Firenza has family living in the general area, a brother in Jacksboro and a brother and his wife and family in Weatherford. He lucked out and found a place to live right after signing the contract with BISD.

“Sometimes you just look at that and it’s like something’s trying to tell you that you need to be here or that you picked right,” he said.

Since this is so early in his career, Firenza calls his teaching philosophy “the roughest draft you can think of.” He said he wants his students to leave high school better than he left high school and even better than the group of students who went through before them.

“I’m just excited to see where this year goes, and we’ll see how far we go with it,” he said.

 

Story by Carla McKeown

Cutline, top photo: Joseph Firenza, at right, is the new assistant band director for Breckenridge High School and the band director for the junior high bands. During practices, he is on the field, helping the marching band with their show. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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