Travis Coakley is the Band Director at Biloxi High School in Biloxi, Mississippi where he has been teaching for 9 years and has been an educator for the past 20 years! Travis has been married to his loving wife Selina, for 16 years and they have three children, identical twin daughters, Sarah and Alice, and a son, William Jr.
Music has always been a part of Travis’ life, when he was young, he took piano lessons, sang in church, and joined the band program as a seventh-grade student at North Gulfport Middle School. Throughout middle and high school he enjoyed his experience in band, but he says he never considered it a career. His goal was to pursue a degree in either computer science or political science.
That all changed his senior year when he attended an honor band at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was surrounded by great players from throughout the southeast and for four days he rehearsed great music in a positive atmosphere. He says this changed his life and for the first time he considered teaching music as a career.
When asked “Who was the biggest influence in your career?” Mr. Coakley says, “I have been extremely blessed to be surrounded by great people and great educators from whom I learned so much.” He notes that all his band directors in school and at the university were so helpful and encouraging along the way, and he would not be here today without their guidance. If he had to narrow it down his biggest influences, he says they would be Jackie Davidson, Joe Hooten, his parents, and wife Selina.
Travis says that Jackie Davidson has been his mentor teacher since he was an undergrad at USM. “I fully believe that she has forgotten more about how to be a band director than I will ever learn. She encouraged me when I took my first job, she challenged me to work hard and excel, and she has looked after me all these years. I wish every band director could have such a wonderful mentor to start their career.”
Joe Hooten was Travis’ colleague at Tate High School in Pensacola, Florida. He says that having the opportunity to watch the way Joe oversaw a large program, dealt with administrators and parents, and rehearsed students directly affected the way he teaches. Travis says that Joe helped him grow as an educator, showed him a successful way to teach, and most importantly gave examples of how to juggle being a busy band director, a husband, and a father who keeps family at the forefront.
Travis mentions that his parents are not musicians but have always supported him in his career. “They provided me with a firm foundation in life and I am forever in debt to their love and support.”
“Finally, my wife Selina has been my support system, my strength, and my inspiration. She has always been there for me and our children. She takes care of us all, loves us unconditionally, and is always our biggest cheerleader. She is a truly amazing person.”
We asked Travis “What is your most memorable accomplishment as a teacher? He stated that This would be almost impossible to list. “I have had so many fond memories over the years associated with student performances and achievements. Awards and accolades are not something that I strive for or focus my program around. My students and I regularly talk about the joyful experiences of performing quality music at a high level and trying to pull the musicality out of the pieces we perform. Finishing a performance and seeing the knowing smiles on the student performers’ faces when they know they achieved something memorable is a sensation that never gets old.”
Mr. Coakley’s wish for his students that they will leave their program and have a deep appreciation for music. He mentions, that in class, they often talk about being a lifelong consumer and advocate of music with the hopes that their participation in music continues after high school.
Here are a few bullet-point tips Travis gives to all his student teachers and younger colleagues in an effort to help them be successful as an
- Be prepared to work hard. This job is challenging but ultimately very rewarding.
- Surround yourself with the best people possible.
- Find a mentor that you can ask questions and learn from.
- Commit to being a lifelong learner. Never stop reading, listening, studying, and asking questions.
- Always program quality literature for your students to perform regardless of their age group or ability level. Great music can be found for all ensembles and it is our responsibility to provide these works to our students.
- Find a non-music related hobby that you can enjoy.
- Never neglect close friends and family. Find time for them and cherish the moments you have with them. This career is time-consuming but these moments with loved ones is important.
Travis says he and his son talk often about what superpower they would have. He is torn between wanting to have the power to fly or the power to travel through time. Travis admits he is a history buff and is often bitten by the travel bug. He says these superpowers would allow him to personally see important events throughout history or effortlessly visit any locale he would wish.
Travis’ favorite travel experience he had with students was a trip to Hawaii. He says “their band program performed a parade through downtown Waikiki along the beachfront between the torchlights and later performed a patriotic concert at Pearl Harbor directly next to the U.S.S. Missouri as crowds watched from the deck. The weather, the food, the friendly atmosphere, and the memorable performances made for an amazing trip experience.”
Travis says, “the summer season flashes by in the blink of an eye, so I do my best to carefully plan out this time.” Once the school year concludes he typically takes a few days off for rest before embarking on a family vacation. His family loves to travel and they try to expose our children to new experiences and locations each year. He annually attends the ASBDA convention followed by a last-minute trip to the Florida panhandle before the school year starts up again.
When beginning a new project Travis reminds himself of his favorite quote “The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
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