Mandan Middle School Band Director Rebecca Warren is retiring after 40 years of guiding kids through the world of music.
The popular band teacher spent 28 years teaching band at the high school level in her home state of Alabama before moving to Mandan, where she spent the past 12 years teaching band at Mandan Middle School.
“I started in band when I was in the sixth grade. I started playing trumpet and I just fell in love with it -- not so much with playing the trumpet but just being in the band with other students and making music. And I decided early on -- very early on -- that I wanted to be a band director,” Warren said.
When Warren graduated from high school in 1976, she didn’t know of any female band directors that she could model a career after. Still, that didn’t discourage her.
“It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do that,” she said.
She married her husband, John, former band director at Mandan High School, after meeting him at a band convention in Chicago. Neither had been married before, but she said they were a good match after being “married to the band room” for their whole careers.
She started teaching at the middle school level upon her move to Mandan. Up until then, she had taught at the high school level and the shift taught her a lot, she said.
“It really changed how I looked at music education, and how I learned what true difference it could make in the lives of young children. When I taught high school band, my goal was to have the best concerts, to have the best performances, to have the best festival ratings,” Warren said.
After she started teaching at the middle school, she realized how much joy music can bring to younger students who were experiencing music for the first time.
“To that individual student, to finally get a sound on that trumpet, to finally get that flute to sound like the flute, to get the saxophone to sound like an instrument and not a hurt animal -- those little things made it so much fun,” she said.
Warren said it’s been hard ending the school year without kids in the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic, “not because it’s my last year, but because it’s a year that ended without all of those (band concerts) happening.”
Though retired from Mandan Middle School, Warren’s passion for music isn’t going anywhere. She’s staying the area and will continue playing with the local community band. She has plans to teach a class at Bismarck State College in the fall and put on a clinic at an international band conference in Chicago in December.
“I’m going to stay in the band world, just not all day, every day,” Warren said.
Reach Bilal Suleiman at 701-250-8261 or Bilal.Suleiman@bismarcktribune.com
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