Bye, Beethoven

Todd Hudson

Photo by Deidre Pike

Seems silly, says Reed High band director Todd Hudson, to fight so hard for a job that few would want. Hudson was one of more than 30 Washoe County School District teachers who got fired—whose contracts were not renewed for next year—on May 1. Hudson, a graduate of Reed High and the University of Nevada, Reno, has been teaching at Reed High for four years. He’s been out of school since March 1, when he was called into active duty with the Nevada Air Guard, where his nickname is “Beethoven.” Despite students’ rumors that he was in Iraq or Japan or Korea, he’s been right here all along. Though he’s disappointed that he may not be able to return to Reed—he says he’s No. 8 on the rehire list—at least the 30-year-old has a fine-paying gig as a navigator with the Air Guard, which pays about double his school-teaching salary. “It’s not that the Air Guard pays a lot, it’s that the schools pay so little,” he says.

Why did you want to be a band director?

The good times I had in high school, love of music and the teamwork involved in succeeding at goals.

What’s good about the job?

The kids are the best part. Watching the kids learn and grow and work together, discovering what they’re capable of. And trips—marching band trips and competitions, playing at sporting events, festivals. Seeing how proud the parents are of what’s going on.

Is music as important to education as, say, math?

The life lessons you learn in a music or sports program are invaluable for what you do in life. When I went through flight training in the Air Force, I relied on things I’d learned in marching band. How geeky is that? The other day we took four planes out into the desert. You have to be able to see that in your head before you go. You don’t just wing things. You have to have a mission plan and flexibility.

Sounds complex.

You also have to rely on the people around you to complete the goal. Marching band is the same way. You may be one of 15 trumpet players, but if the performer next to you isn’t pulling his or her own weight, then you won’t accomplish the goal.

How do you feel about the budget cuts?

In times of financial problems, the last thing that should be cut is teachers. Class sizes are already too big. The average class size is 30 to 35. I had 140 students in band this year.

You have 140 students in one class?

I’m a good bang for the buck. On average, I work 12 to 14 hours a day, and it’s only gotten worse over the years. My wife and I have put off having our own children because we’re so busy. She’s a music teacher, too. There are personal sacrifices, like time away from each other, family, friends.

What else should we know?

It seems like the cuts to music and athletics are kind of a ploy to get [education] bills passed. We’re being cut because parents involved in music and sports are the most vocal. If you want to go for the throat, cut music and band, athletics and ROTC—those are the people who will fight for what they want. I’ll be the first to say you need to save music, save sports. But it’s not always that raising taxes is the solution. It may be reorganizing resources, what we already have. If you look at airlines, they’re asking pilots and stewards to take pay cuts. They’re not cutting jobs. I don’t see that happening with our administrators.