New band director has high hopes for new program

By Robert Morales —

Matthew Short faces a daunting task as he embarks on his new career as band director and Director of Music at CCAISD.

He knew that the band enrollment had diminished significantly. He
knew that inventory for musical instruments at the band hall was
non-existent. He knew that the band hall was in poor condition. He knew
that music hadn't been properly filed in years.

Yet, he accepted the offer from Superintendent Marc Puig to come to
Van Horn as band director and music director as his first job out of
college. He graduated last May from Sul Ross State University, and he is
pursuing a Masters in Music.

In an interview with the Advocate,
he gave a tour of the band hall. He has clearly made progress in his
short time here, but he has a long way to go. And he accepts that. He
views his many challenges here as taking them one at a time.

For example, the band had no saxophone players last year. This year,
there are six saxophone players in the 5th and 6th grade, four saxophone
players in the 7th grade and seven saxophone players in the high school
band that now comprises grades 8 through 12.

Mr. Short was reminded that a certain band director by the name of
Ralph Zamarippa arrived in Van Horn in the 1970s, and it was his first
job. As it turned out, Mr. Zamarippa created perhaps one of the best
programs in the history of CCAISD. Mr. Short said he knew the story as
he pointed to the numerous trophies on the walls of the band hall.

Among his many challenges as band director, Mr. Short said he is
climbing an uphill battle in trying to get his students to believe in
what they can achieve. “I must build confidence. That's one of the
biggest things I'm facing.”

To demonstrate how dedicated he is to building a first-class band,
over the summer, Mr. Short personally knocked on doors, in an effort to
recruit as many band members as he could. His efforts paid off: The high
school band now has 75 members. The 5th and 6th grade band has 56
students, and the 7th grade band has 27 students.

In addition to his many duties, he also has the responsibility of
providing private lessons to beginning students. In larger districts,
assistant band directors typically give private lessons to the students.

Mr. Short understands the unusual burden of being fresh out of
college and having to fix a program that has been broken for years. He
also has to contend with discipline problems that have plagued the band
program over the last few years. Even so, he is not intimidated with
what confronts him.

As for awards, he knows those will come in due time. “It's one of my
goals to take this band to area competition this year. I can't imagine a
scenario in which that wouldn't happen.”

Mr. Short's primary instrument is percussion, which he says he
doesn't advertise because he gets questioned about how a percussionist
could teach band. For the record, a percussionist must be well-versed on
the most complicated rhythms when playing drums, and the percussionist
must also be just as well-versed on playing all the keyboard
instruments.

Mr. Short is originally from San Antonio, where he played percussion at Byron P. Steele High School.