BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
China. Africa. Vietnam. America. Each of these countries are different in more ways than somebody could count. The cultures aren’t the same, the languages aren’t similar. Someone from America would find it hard to go to Vietnam and speak the language and adapt to the culture perfectly. However, there is one thing that transcends cultures and communicates across all barriers…music. Josh Bradford has given his life to teaching music because he believes that it can be used for something good and shared with others.
Josh was born and raised in Harrison, Arkansas and graduated from Harrison Public Schools. From an early age he has been playing music or involved in music in some way, “I was in the kids choir at church when I was growing up, but my first major study was piano in fourth grade,” says Josh. He continued to play music, learning to play the saxophone in sixth grade and started taking guitar lessons in seventh grade. Saxophone was actually the only instrument that Josh played in the band until college. Like many other middle school students he began playing in the beginner band and just continued to progress in his musical ability.
As Josh continued in music he began to enjoy it more and more and saw that he had an ability. “After I earned All Region and All State I began to think, ‘maybe this is something I can make into a career’, and so I started just paying attention to the way our band directors were doing things.” In seven years of band, he had eight different band directors, but through it all Josh was able to see things in each one that would prepare him to be a band director later down the road. “My senior year my band director was fun and light hearted and so I knew one day that I wanted it to be fun for students, but I also saw how hard it was,” remarks Josh.
Josh attended college at Arkansas Tech in Russellville on a academic and band scholarship pursuing a degree in education so that he could teach. While at school Josh met his wife, Kendra, and after graduation they would settle in Harrison again for a couple of years. Although they lived in Harrison, Josh worked as the music teacher at Alpena Public Schools, a little community about 20 minutes from Harrison. “I learned a lot and I enjoyed it a lot there. It was my first job as a music teacher and I had a lot to learn, not to mention that I was the only music teacher in the district and my job consisted basically of having four different jobs. It was good because it taught me a lot that I use now.” After spending a couple of years in Alpena, Josh and Kendra moved to Mena, where Josh has directed the Mena Middle School band for three years now.
Along with directing the middle school band, Josh assists Charles Morgan in directing the high school band. “I have really enjoyed my time working with Charles, I have learned a lot from him and I think that we complement each other well. He sees things that I don’t and I am able to help him as well,” explains Josh. A retired CEO was once asked how they always ensured the product was what they desired and he responded confidently, “If the process is right, the product will turn out just fine.” For Josh, teaching middle school students is so much more about the process and developing young musicians than it is anything else. “It is easy to focus on the finish product, but sometimes if you do that you miss out on the process. Now I want to focus on the process of developing these students and asking how we can make it fun for them each and every day,” says Josh.
This past school year Josh was recognized for his efforts and hard work with the middle school band and was named the co-middle school teacher of the year. It has been said that everyday progress will lead to big results and this is something that encourages all teachers, but especially Josh. “I want to see students make progress in the band and their musical ability. We often get students who have never really played music, but we have the opportunity to teach them and help them grow. That’s fun.” As a middle school teacher it is always fun to watch as students you have taught move on and graduate and Josh is now getting to experience this a little as he moves into his fourth year. “It’s great to see our students move along and complete their time in the band. Seeing students become leaders is great.”
Josh’s teaching style and patience with his students is a reminder that the process and progress made is the most important thing. It is all too easy to get caught up in the final product and steps in the process are skipped over. “I love music because I feel that it teaches so many things. It is another art form for people to express themselves and it communicates; no matter where you go in the world people know the language of music.”