Educator Spotlight: Meet Theresa Ducassoux

Middle school band director tunes in to each individual in the classroom

This story is part of a series that celebrates outstanding educators within the Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.


The bustle of a band room is a comforting, obvious noise.  


You might hear the screech of a music stand, the knock of a cymbal, the tap tap of the baton or the click click of a case as the trumpet is unveiled. 


There’s the tuning horns, the practicing winds, the humming voices and the percussionist finding his beat. It’s music all on its own, for sure, but this is a collective sound, something made together by a group of 60 or more.  


And in band director Theresa Ducassoux’s classroom, it might sound just a bit different.  


A confident lone trumpeter, for example, or a single student voice speaking bravely in front of the room.  


Her students make music together every day – with their combined practicing winds, tuning horns, supportive taps of the feet – but in Theresa’s classroom and with all the conviction in her heart, that music begins with one.  


“This is not my band program,” says Theresa, who has been teaching music in Northern Virginia for nearly 20 years. “This is our band program. It’s about what the kids want and what each kid can do, and I just want each of them to think of themselves as a musician, not just playing in the band.” 


That continued empowerment of the individual makes for the beginning of a beautiful bustle, indeed. 

‘Ownership in the Music Classroom’

Theresa would say with delight that she isn’t your typical band director.  


She’s loved the idea of teaching and playing music since she was a child, of course – exploring piano, percussion and French horn over the years and reveling in both chorus and orchestra, too – but today, her joy is in the middle school child, the one discovering an instrument or the sound of their own music for perhaps the first time.  


Their genuine wonder in their own capability fuels her daily.  


“I obviously want my kids to play their instruments forever,” Theresa says with hope, “but I also just want to be there to help them build a strong foundation now that they can carry with them for always.” 


And so she departs from the expected dictatorship in the band room.

“I focus on the individual a bit more to really give each kid a voice,” says Theresa, who also published a book this fall exactly on how teachers can empower music students. “I ask them what they want to hear or how they think things should sound.


“I might still be the one to know where we need to end up, but how can I guide them to figure out that path instead of me telling them the way? My kids deserve that kind of ownership in the music classroom.” 


That direction is in the music, too. Theresa takes time to not only pick songs the kids wouldn’t expect, but to be sure her students appreciate the composer behind the notes.  


“I’m constantly looking for high-quality music – something as diverse as possible for the kids to play,” Theresa says. “I want composers with different cultural backgrounds and different genders, and then I want to talk about it with them.  


“I don’t want the kids to just play the music, I want them to have a connection.” 

Technology helps to build it. She’s been using Flipgrid for about three years now, an obvious addition for her to help students both see and hear themselves differently.  


“Flipgrid gives each individual kid their little time to shine,” Theresa says. “I know I can use it for assessment purposes, but, for us, it’s a chance for the kids to find their musical voice and put out there whatever it is they want to do or say. It’s just a way to make music that makes them happy.” 


Theresa says her middle school students tend to be more self-conscious, but once they see their peers playing “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” on a holiday music Flipgrid, for example, you can be sure the others will tune up and follow suit.  


“I see these kids growing because they want to,” she says. “And I love to see them want to try new things.” 


That desire is an individual journey, too – something Theresa thoughtfully, patiently nurtures in every student, note by note, tap for tap on the musical stand. It all begins with one.  


Follow Theresa on Twitter.