New director of bands annouced for Walnut Grove


Walnut Grove High School

A graphic made for the annoucement of Walnut Grove’s new director of bands. Announced Jan 6, Tanner Smith is coming from Wakeland High School. “I’m currently the director of bands at Wakeland High School in Frisco and going to be serving as the director of bands at Walnut Grove High School, coming up for the fall of 2023,” Smith said.

*May 3 Update: As progress on the WG Band continues, Mr. Toth said Walnut Grove Fight Song is under vote, and the Alma Mater is being composed.

“We have to work with the school to get permission for our fight song,” WGHS principal Dustin Toth said. The Alma Mater at WGHS is similar to the Rock Hill Alma Mater, with the original composition by the director of bands and choir director.*

Meet The Director

On Jan. 6, Prosper ISD announced Tanner Smith as the new director of bands for Walnut Grove on the upcoming school’s website. In anticipation of the opening of WGHS, the district announces staff members who will help set up the school’s program. New staff members will come from both Rock Hill and Prosper High School and from schools outside the district.

Currently, Smith is director of bands at Wakeland High School in Frisco.

Outside of teaching band, Smith likes to spend time with his family. Even though he teaches in the arts, he is also an outdoor enthusiast.

“I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and we like to do a lot of things outside,” Smith said. “[One] of my personal hobbies is mountain biking.”

Though he’s an expert in many instruments, Smith holds the trumpet close to heart. He is able to teach brass in drum corps due to his extensive experience.

“I had the opportunity to perform with three [drum corps],” Smith said. “I marched for five years and I got to perform with Capital Regiment, Carolina Crown and The Cavaliers.”

Drum Corps International or DCI is a league with many groups that compete in the summer in Indianapolis. These groups compose of brass instruments like the trumpet, tuba, mellophone and baritone. The percussion is composed of drumline and front ensemble.

“I grew up playing trumpet,” Smith said. “I had the opportunity to teach brass through my drum corps experience.”

Smith’s qualities helps him to lead towards his students.

“The qualities of a strong work ethic, a sincere love of music and for his students, and his charisma,” Director of Fine Arts John Alstrin said.

Toth states that he chooses Smith due to the Wakeland Band program excellence.

“He grew a great program at Wakeland and he brought the program to state,” Toth said.

Vision of the Walnut Grove Band

Smith’s vision is to create a program that values both individual and team growth. “We can do that through positive relationships, having high expectations and achieving those expectations,” Smith said.

Part of his vision of the Walnut Grove band program is to create a safe place for young musicians to take “emotional, academic and artistic risks.”

These risks include performing in auditions in front of judges and playing difficult pieces in front of peers.

“Even though risks can be worrisome, risks can also help put yourself out into the world,” Smith said, “artistic risks to put yourself out in the music industry.”

Creating a safe environment can let students feel comfortable to take these musical risks.

“So it’s really creating a family atmosphere for the students and for the staff to where we’re all comfortable with one another to take those risks,” Smith said, “to enjoy the musical experience and to enjoy being together.”

Smith believes that even though failure can hurt in the moment, grit is more important and will help in the long run. “We learn so much when we take the risks, from failing to learning,” Smith said. “When you’re in a competitive activity, you learn how to continue to motivate yourself.”

Motivation goes hand in hand with progress. Smith makes it clear that settling isn’t an option.“I think it is really important for all of us,” Smith said, “[to realize that we don’t need to] feel comfortable where we are,” whether in band or life.

Smith’s Philosophy

“I knew I wanted to be a band director about sixth or seventh grade,” Smith said. “That was because of the relationships that I built with my middle school band director and the opportunities they provided me.”

Smith now hopes to provide the same for his students.

Smith experienced the same positive relationship with his directors throughout high school, drum corps and college. “I think my ‘why’ is that I can give the students the same, if not better experience than what I had, whether they continue on in music or not,” Smith said.

For Smith, it’s not the commitment to marching band that’s important, it’s the love for music. “If they can continue to have an appreciation for music and the fine arts,” Smith said, “when they have children or students of their own, they can pass on that appreciation.”

Smith’s philosophy helps him to become a better teacher.

“Mr. Smith was selected due to his history of excellence, enthusiasm, and student-centered approach,” Alstrin said.

After graduating from college, Smith created career goals that included becoming a director and opening up a new program.

“I had the opportunity of opening a program here in Frisco as an assistant director,” Smith said. “I really, thoroughly enjoyed that experience.” Now he gets to do the same at WGHS. The uniqueness of opening up a program is having a year to try out different things and see what works,” Smith said.

Alstrin had the opportunity to visit Smith’s program over at Wakeland.

“The Wakeland students laughed, smiled, worked really hard, and made amazing moments on stage and on the marching field,” Alstrin said.

Behind the desk

The difference between an assistant director and the director of bands is that the latter works behind the scenes of the program. As the director of bands, Smith spends most of his workday at a desk.

“A lot of time it is desk work, just getting behind it and getting things knocked out,” Smith said.

Though it can get repetitive, it’s just as important as being on the field during practices.

While working behind the scenes is challenging during marching season, it pays off at the end of the season or contest. “I love seeing everybody’s excitement walking off the field after a great performance,” Smith said, “or bouncing back at rehearsal after a performance [in which] they felt like they could have done better.”

Smith has a message for future Walnut Grove Band students: “Be ready to come in, have fun and work super hard.”

Updated on May 15. for additional quotes.