Karl Scarborough, the Winlock School District band and choir director, says he uses music as a tool to prepare students for the challenges of the real world. He often asks his students if they can imagine a day without music to keep them inspired and foster creativity.
Scarborough’s hard work and dedication to the betterment of his students through music and teamwork over the past 27 years has been noticed by his colleagues and has led to his induction into the Washington State Music Educators Hall of Fame in Yakima at the state conference this upcoming weekend.
“I look at some of the other names in the Hall of Fame and some of them are professors at (Washington State University and the University of Washington) and I’m thinking ‘wow it’s very humbling to be a part of that,’” Scarborough said.
When he received the letter from the Washington State Music Teachers Association he saidhe thought he owed them money, but was pleasantly surprised to “Congratulations” written at the top of the page.
“Karl has done a great job with our music program and this award is well deserved,” said Brian Maley, principal of Winlock High School.
The Chronicle asked Scarborough what he enjoys most about being a music teacher.
“It’s seeing the light bulbs come on and seeing the kids get excited about it. It’s like going through a jungle to get to that point but when you see them up on stage, squirming because they’re nervous and then they nail it and they feel so accomplished. I think music is kind of that grease that keeps the education system going, that thing that keeps kids creative,” he said.
Music and creativity have always been a part of his life, Scarborough said, as both of his parents were involved in music and his father was an art teacher. Scarborough was a self-proclaimed band nerd when he was in school and played the baritone and a bit of trumpet. He joined the Navy and found himself flying jets and taking photos of the action while staying involved in music by joining volunteer bands. After six years in the Navy, he decided to go to college and studied music education at Eastern Washington University.
Scarborough is the only music teacher within the Winlock School District and teaches high school band and choir, middle school band and choir and 5th-grade band. He is the coordinator for the “mass band” which brings all of the smaller school district’s bands in Lewis County together to play music. He said he tries to get the students performing as much as possible — at monthly assemblies, the pep band performing at sporting events and the bands and choirs competing in district competitions.
“I think it’s really important to take all the kids to all of the district contests. I get kids out and performing as much as I can,” Scarborough said. He said he is glad the district is supportive of music and he hopes to get general music back into the elementary school.
Over his 27 years of teaching music, Scarborough said he would go back and tell his younger self not to spend so much time at school but more time at home with family. He said he used to spend Sundays in the classroom preparing for the upcoming week but has reorganized his priorities over the years.
“Those same problems will be here on Monday whether I’m here on Sunday or not. Life comes first. Family comes first,” he said.
Scarborough said he places a high value on giving students the opportunity to be creative during their school day. He focuses on teamwork and pushing his students to reach their potential. He differentiated music from other classes by saying that kids are on their own in math class — they sink or swim on their own — but with music, it’s a group effort. Scarborough said he lets the kids have fun and understands the importance of building a relationship with his students.
“I think our jobs as teachers are not to teach them music or not to teach them math it’s just to get them prepared and give them the tools for real life and I’m privileged to use music to shape them and get them ready for the world,” Scarborough said.