He's the Leader of the Band
Lewiston teacher Bob Wicks honored as Idaho Music Educator of the Year
Music elevated Bob Wicks from a struggling elementary school student to a master's degree holder with a 4.0 grade point average. Wicks is an alumnus of the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho.
Wicks can pinpoint the moment in fifth-grade band that triggered his transformation from below-average reader needing special instruction to high-achieving student.
"Something just clicked," he said.
Wicks, who teaches music at two Lewiston elementary schools, was recently named Music Educator of the Year by the Idaho Music Educators Association.
In addition to teaching general music, band and choir, Wicks volunteers as orchestra instructor two mornings a week before school at McGhee Elementary and one day a week after school at Whitman Elementary.
The idea to start an elementary orchestra formed two years ago when fellow Lewiston music teacher Matt Lieberman brought his jazz band to McGhee and Wicks noticed they didn't have a bass player.
The school district owned several string instruments left over from a program discontinued more than a decade ago, Wicks said. Soon, he was nurturing a budding bass player and four other string musicians at McGhee.
The group of fifth- and sixth-graders grew to 14 last school year. This year, with additional students from Whitman, he's teaching 19 young musicians on violin, viola, cello and string bass.
Music speaks to people in different ways, Wicks said. Some connect with choral, traditional band or contemporary music. For others, it's orchestra.
"It's a niche. It's how their brain works," Wicks said. "I just wanted to give the kids an opportunity to learn the music in a different way."
Initially, Wicks sought assistance from University of Idaho professor Ferenc Cseszko, who teaches violin and viola and directs the university orchestra. Csesko worked with the orchestra students one day a week last year, focusing on technique, posture and other fundamentals. He continues to consult as necessary.
"That's been a huge help," Wicks said.
Orofino music teacher Kathleen Tetwiler, who serves as president of the Region 2 Music Educators Association, nominated Wicks for the state recognition.
Area music teachers appreciate Wicks' dedication to teaching and to music education issues on the district, region and state levels, Tetwiler said.
"I think that he goes above and beyond, not only for his students but for the music teachers in the region," she said. "He has served as our secretary for a lot of years. For an elementary person to sit through and take notes on mainly secondary scheduling says a lot about his commitment."
Wicks earned his undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Idaho before teaching in Lapwai for two years. In 2006, he joined the Lewiston School District where, he's been told, the music program dates back to 1906, possibly making it the first in the state.
While high school music teachers often are the ones students remember, Wicks said, he finds teaching elementary students immensely rewarding.
"These are the youngest musicians, and we've got to set that foundation," he said.
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