Praise for Mr. Peoples

Andrew+Peoples+and+his+students+on+the+Jazz+Band+trip+to+Chicago.

Andrew Peoples and his students on the Jazz Band trip to Chicago.

Isabella Zinchini, Fine Arts Section Editor

It can be argued that music teachers and directors play a crucial role in the lives of their students, beyond improving their musical skills and preparing for performances.

In a typical school classroom, instruction consists primarily of lecturing to students sitting in rows at desks, dutifully listening and taking notes. In some music classrooms, it is strictly about the performance and the technique and skill of each individual musician. 

It is the belief of WHHS Band Director Andrew Peoples, however, that music making is not just about the final product. “[The band directors] at Walnut are much more concerned about trying to be good stewards of your emotional health and to give you opportunities to express yourself,” Peoples said.

This is not to say that a little competition is not a good thing, but in an academically taxing school such as WHHS, finding an environment in which students are able to express their emotions in a healthy manner can go a long way. 

“[Music] is a chance for students to connect with something else. The academic pressures here are very high… and there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and be excellent, and so my hope is that music can give [students] a different community where they can express [themselves],” Peoples said.

Throughout his time as a band director, Peoples has met all kinds of personalities from which he was able to learn that there is no one “type” of student.

“In Fine Arts you get to meet people from every walk of life. You get people who are one race and people who are another race, and people who have different ideas about sexuality… and so all of these things were opened up because the Fine Arts brings everyone together,” Peoples said.

Peoples believes that the Fine Arts welcomes every type of person, and that the music community would not be nearly as prominent without diversity.

“That’s the thing about Fine Arts, it doesn’t ask you to be a certain thing coming into it. You don’t have to come in as anything… Music is valuable, and music is going to benefit from whatever your experience is,” Peoples said.

But Peoples’ passion for music and the Fine Arts has not always been so prevalent. In fact, growing up he had almost no interest in it at all.

“[When] I was in elementary school, I was all into athletics. I wanted to play sports all the time and my least favorite class was music… I hated it. I had no interest,” Peoples said.

It was his father who had him take up an instrument in the sixth grade, and from there his love for music only grew. He started taking private lessons and in his freshman year of high school, Peoples auditioned for a music camp at Florida State University where he quickly learned how competitive the music industry could be.

“I remember thinking I wasn’t good enough but that turned into [motivation] and I started practicing more and the next time I went to the camp I ended up getting third [chair], which was a big deal playing in the top ensemble,” Peoples said.

Peoples considered himself a very competitive person growing up and because of that, he was able to move very far and very fast in the music field. But he soon found that he connected more with lyrical and artistry music, which is vastly different from his original focus.

“I appreciated the fact that I could create something that was expressive. I went from loving [to] compete and being the best to not needing to be the best as much and just liking to make music,” Peoples said. 

Peoples attended Stetson University for his undergraduate degree before moving to Cincinnati and going to the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati. After college he worked as a freelance musician, with no intention of becoming a teacher. 

“I started off wanting to be a band director when I went to Stetson, but I had such a miserable experience in my education classes and I [didn’t think] I should,” Peoples said.

But he soon changed his mind and student taught at Mason High School before meeting WHHS Band Director Richard Canter. 

“I had observed Walnut Hills bands and choirs as part of my education and I thought ‘that is the greatest school and I want to teach there.’ But at that point there was really no way I was going to ever get a job at Walnut because they had three pretty young directors,” Peoples said.

However in the summer of 2017, a position opened. “Right from the very beginning I was very impressed by his professionalism and just the genuine type of person that he is and how much he cared about the students and the connection he had with students,” Canter said.

WHHS band director Edward LeBorgne thought the same saying, “Mr. Peoples is probably one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever met.”

Since then, Peoples has been a major part of the WHHS band program, and has grown strong connections with his students. For WHHS alumna Jaylee Sowders, ‘20, her decision to major in music at the University of Dayton was influenced greatly by Peoples.

“I want to be a music therapist and I want to be how he was to me to someone else. He has helped me through a lot of losses in my life and he’s not required to do that by any means and he’s helped me through a lot of different challenges in mental health and he’s always been super understanding and just a great person. He’s one of the biggest things I miss from high school,” Sowders said.

Many students see Peoples as a teacher they believe they can go to about more than just academic struggles.

“He always made a point to ask me how my day was going and helped me develop as a musician… I was going through a really tough time my junior year and he would always check up on me just to make sure I was making good decisions and growing through those [struggles],” WHHS alumnus Josh Duebber, ‘20 said.

Throughout his life, Peoples has accomplished many musical endeavours, such as being the principal trombone instrumentalist in an international music festival in Italy or playing in the Cincinnati Brass Quintet. 

But it’s not the recognition or the awards that Peoples is most proud of. It is the rapport he has gained with students that he will forever cherish. “Mostly it’s the personal [accolades] like the letters I might get from a student that says thank you. Those are the things I’m quite proud of,” Peoples said.

In his four years working with WHHS’s bands, Peoples has left a lasting impression on those he teaches and works with. 

“He really strives to make everyone learn no matter the situation. If you played your worst, if you played your best, he wanted you to learn from that experience,” Peoples’ former student Mark Henderson said.

Though strengthening these personal relationships, among other things, has proven difficult in the era of COVID-19, Peoples is appreciative of the time he was able to spend with his family.

“There are times in the year where I have very little time for anything other than my job,” Peoples said, “so I appreciated having a little bit of time to spend with my family.”

Through it all, Peoples strives to remain positive and help students be the best versions of themselves.

“He’s always making people laugh and smile and they’re always excited to talk to him… and people really respect him not just as a teacher but as a person… he’s done a lot to help people grow,” SENIOR Gabby Burns said.