Ballard Schools has had a heck of a music department for a number of years, and another of this year’s retirees, Cheryl Pittman, was a part of it.
“I have been one of the five-12 band directors at Ballard High School for the past 31 years. For 29 of those years, I worked with Carolyn Fair and Scott Keese. Scott retired two years ago, and Carolyn and I both are retiring this year. Not many departments can claim those years of solidarity and experience,” Pittman said.
Pittman was a stay-at-home mom with her daughter, Nicole, when Ballard Schools reached out to her initially to help with lessons for the students in their growing seven-12 band program. “I eagerly became part of the program, with my assignment growing as our band department continued to grow,” she recalled.
Her husband, David, was general contractor, with his own construction business during that time. “I helped him any way I could. There are various similarities between building a band program and building a construction company, if truth be told,” she said. In her spare time, she had a private studio with piano and instrumental students.
Teaching has been a great profession for her. “I’ve enjoyed EVERY facet about teaching, but could have gotten along just dandy without the paperwork,” she said.
“There are no words to describe the joy I have seen on students’ faces when the music on the page connects with the music in their soul! To observe them playing from the inside out is the greatest privilege. It’s the students that are the band, not any director,” she said.
What she has strived for daily has been to “seize the moment!”
“What an honor to watch that play out in myriads of students throughout these 31 years,” she said. “From day one, my goal was to inspire students to make quality music from their hearts! One of my mottoes has been, ‘We can either give up or we can get better!’ Probably not the most inspiring words, but sarcasm has always been one of my weaknesses,” she said.
Pittman said she can’t reflect on her teaching years without praising her co-workers, Scott and Carolyn. “We were truly a team that meshed completely! We each had individual strengths that were only made better by working together. We truly brought out the best in each other! We have been told by colleagues over and over how much they envied our cohesiveness and team work. The kind of department we had happens rarely.”
It isn’t easy to leave the district, Pittman admitted. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for her to give up her teaching. “I can only do it knowing that my place now is giving my husband of 45 years the attention he deserves and being an indispensable part in the lives of my daughter Nicole, and my two grandsons, Joshua and Hayden.”
In leaving, she had a little advice for future band directors. “Your band will be an integral part of your family. Be the best example you can be. No, I take that back. Be a shining example! Invest in your students’ lives, and they will give you their all. And second of all, ask for help often and without hesitation. Band directors are a unique breed and will willingly, cheerfully and with much knowledge, help you in any situation.
“It is agonizing to leave these students,” she continued. “My deep desire for each and every one is that I fulfilled my purpose for them, which was to teach them, to love them and to inspire them.”