Fox fulfilling lifelong passion as NHS band director
Michael Fox is doing what he loves most in life — teaching and conducting music.
Fox is in his sixth-year as Nevada High School's director of bands, and 25th overall as a music instructor. Fox's previous stops include smaller Missouri schools Fair Play (his alma-mater), Buffalo, Stoutland, and Miller. Fox taught band and choir for a total of 19 years at those schools, with his primary focus on band only at Nevada High. Additionally, Fox received his degree in music education (vocal and instrumental) from Southwest Baptist University.
Fox said his biggest influence was his high school band director, Phil Jones.
"There was just something about him that made me want to do this crazy lifestyle for a living," Fox said with a wry smile. "Band was just a happy place. It was a place we could come and have a good time, we could enjoy each other. But we also got to make a lot of great music, and we had some very strong competitive years through my high school career."
Fox specializes in the teaching of percussion.
"I can play everything, not well, but I can play it well enough to teach them," he said.
Fox said the past half-dozen years have flown by — as he oversees concert band, marching band, Winter Winds (marching band), and a jazz band — currently comprised of a 105 members.
"It's been a wonderful time," said the Dunnegan, Missouri native. "We've got great kids, and a very strong program. We also have tons of support, administrative from top down — superintendent to school board. Just being able to come in and do what I do, and have everybody look at it and go — 'those guys are doing a great job.'"
Fox said his fondest memory to this point at Nevada High came this past weekend in Ozark, as the NHS Crimson Sound Marching Band qualified for the finals of the Ozark Marching Festival.
"When we marched off the field at finals it was the look on their faces when they walked off, knowing they had done such an amazing job," Fox said. " A couple weekends ago we went to Carl Junction and had a pretty rough competition. And the character of the students this last week, coming in (after a tough showing), they worked their tails off every day and every night in rehearsal. They closed massive gaps between us and other bands."
Fox indicated it was a major breakthrough, as his crew had not advanced past the preliminary round in a competition for some time.
"We had a really nice prelim run," he said of the Ozark festival. "And then, they lit it on fire in the finals."
After placing 12th out of a dozen bands in the finals, Fox said he elated with the outcome, and feels that the Crimson Sound will be able to build off that momentum.
"It gave them a chance to realize that they really can do this," he said. "We met this morning, planned out everything we need to get done this week, and they're ready to hit the ground running tonight. So pretty excited to see how this week shakes out."
Last weekends outing was one of five fall festivals the Crimson Sound are slated to compete in. Also on tap is a percussion preview, Christmas Concert, classics concert, and movies night concert. In addition, Fox and company perform for many of Nevada High's major athletic events.
"I just want the kids to feel good about what they are doing here," he said. "When they step off the field like they did Saturday night, that it was the best run they've ever had, and just keep building on that. Never going back, never accepting that 'we used to be really good, but we're not now.' Keep pushing to be better than they were yesterday. Never worry about points and totals, scores and trophies — but the actual performance that we're giving."
More fond memories are likely in store for Fox and company, as they will be headed to Universal Studios (Florida) in March.
"We get to meet with the Universal Studios staff and do a clinic, workshop, and recording sessions with them," explained Fox.