Scott Leahy revitalized Stewart Middle’s band program
By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS — Just four years ago, the Stewart Middle band program had only 64 students and was struggling to compete with other schools.
Then Scott Leahy became the Bulldogs band director and turned the program into one that regularly receives superior ratings in both group and solo performances. The program now has more than 160 students, 17 of whom were named to the All-County Band team.
For his effort, Leahy will receive the annual Tom Bishop Award for District Five, which includes all of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, on Jan. 9.
“When I was nominated for the award, I was very honored,” Leahy said. “It is truly special when you receive recognition from your colleagues.”
Band directors in each district can nominate someone for the award. There are 21 districts in Florida, but not every one selects someone for the award each year.
The award will be presented to Leahy at the Florida Music Educators Association Clinic Conference at the Tampa Convention Center, which runs from Jan. 6 to 9. Leahy will be given a plaque at the conference.
“That plaque will go right up in our band room the next week,” Leahy said. “The students should get to see it too because they are the ones who really deserve the credit. If they don’t listen and learn then none of this would be possible.”
The All-State Band team will play at the conference on Jan. 9, and one of Stewart Middle’s own will be performing. Zachary Winters is a percussionist for the Bulldogs, and his mother, Pam, is the president of the band’s booster club.
“I can’t say enough about Scott because he does so much for the kids,” Pam Winters said. “He helps the kids with their school work just as much has he does with their playing. He knows what is important and doesn’t neglect those things.”
Leahy has the textbooks for all three grade levels, sixth to eighth, of the students he teaches so he can give them extra help if they need it. Leahy has a table called the “homework table,” where he helps his students with schoolwork or projects before or after school.
“The students only have six class periods, so they can’t fall behind and still take band,” Leahy said. “If they struggle in their core classes, like math, science and English, then they usually have to take intensive classes to catch up. That leaves no time for band, and I don’t want the kids to miss out on playing because they don’t have enough help.”
Leahy’s diligence with the students’ academics has paid off just as much as it has with their playing skills. Of his roughly 160 students, 90 made the honor roll in the first quarter of the current school year.
“I try and get the kids to constantly reach for higher goals, whether it be in band, academics or any other part of their lives,” Leahy said. “Some think it’s being tough on them, but I believe kids will surprise you with how much they can
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