Drum roll please: Carl Meincke retires from Hudson School DistrictCarl Meincke is in a select group of teachers who have spent their entire teaching career in the Hudson School District. He will retire after 37 years as a band instructor at the end of school this year.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Carl Meincke is in a select group of teachers who have spent their entire teaching career in the Hudson School District. He will retire after 37 years as a band instructor at the end of school this year.
Meincke grew up in Green Bay and attended college at UW-Eau Claire. The superintendent was Al Oglund when he was hired to teach junior high band in 1975. He has spent his career in middle school education.
Meincke says there is lots to recommend students in that age group. “They have an energy and an excitement at that age. It is easy to motivate them.“
When Meincke began his teaching career there was a junior high school and a middle school in Hudson, each with about 400 students. In those years about 50 percent of students were involved in band. That has changed over the years as extra-curricular activities have increased in the district. “In those early years we didn’t have much in the way of girls’ sports and there wasn’t hockey and other things. Kids can be incredibly busy these days and music is just one of the things that get their attention.”
Meincke says the other big change he’s experience is the impact of technology on him and his students. “I used to have to send them to library to find and listen to a piece. Now they simply go online and find it in a couple of minutes. It has made things a lot more accessible.”
On the down side, he says he spends an “amazing amount of time on the computer,” answering emails, keeping in touch with parents, other teachers and professionals — all things that need to be done but also take time.
Meincke says he has always appreciated the value the Hudson community has placed on music education. He believes an educated population and proximity to high quality music performances and performers at The Phipps and in the Twin Cities has had an influence. He believes his students have a “high degree of post high school experience with music.”
He estimates that he has taught around 3,800 students over his 37 years, having numerous parents and their children in his classes. This year he even has a grandchild of one of his former pupils in his band. He says love of music and the desire to perform runs in families. “As parents they liked being involved in band and they pass that along to their kids. They find it fun in both generations.”
Meincke says there is more than a little magic in making music which makes it different than other academic experiences. He compares it to math. “A student works on some problems, figures things out and turns them into the teacher. That is kind of where it ends. But when you learn a piece of music, it is to perform. You take it out into the public and demonstrate what you’ve done. That experience doesn’t leave you.”
Also unique to band students is the chance to meet one-on-one with each of his students during their regular individual lessons, something that doesn’t usually happen in other disciplines. “It is nice to get to work with them right at their level. Kids reach points in their learning at different times. I get to tailor what we do to that point. And it is nice getting to know them in that setting.”
Meincke says he may not always remember students’ name but he usually can recall what instrument they played when he runs into them around town. He recalled a former student who he ran into that said he had just heard a piece of music and he remembered having performed it 30 years ago in band. “They are like sponges in my classes, picking things up quickly and enthusiastically and it’s amazing what they remember.”
One Thanksgiving he was sitting down to dinner with his family when the phone rang. It was from a student he had 20 years ago. “He just called to say how much he enjoyed being in band. That was a pretty nice moment.”
When asked if he had a favorite performance experience or band over the years, it isn’t one of his own concerts that he recalls. He chaperoned the Hudson High School Band three times when it performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City. “Almost all of the kids there were former students of mine. That was such a thrill to see them there and perform so well.”
Meincke shares credit for his students’ success over the years with a sound music foundation provided by elementary music teachers. “The extra time that has been allotted to music has really paid off. The students come to us knowing more and being better prepared.” He also acknowledges the support and encouragement of his fellow middle school music teachers in their shared efforts.
Meincke may stop teaching music but he will continue to perform. He regularly plays with four groups including the UW-River Falls trombone choir, the St. Croix Valley Symphony, the Hudson Community Band and a big band out of Fridley, Minn. He will continue to remain active in the Boy Scouts as well.
Meincke and his wife Judy, a kindergarten teacher at Willow River Elementary, have four sons, Dominic, Anthony, Alex and James. This year Meincke got to teach in the same school as his son Anthony, now a science teacher at HMS.
Meincke said that this has been a challenging year to be a teacher in Wisconsin and he has some concern that “quality people may not want to teach. But whatever has been happening, the focus inside our school has always been the students. That will never change.”
When asked for some advice before he leaves, Meincke had some thoughts for students, their parents and teachers just starting out.
For students, “Don’t be too affected by what your peers do. Try and think what is right for you. Do what you want to do.”
As for parents, he thinks they find it easier to say yes these days than no and that isn’t always what children need to hear. “I’ve heard it so many times from former students — I wish I hadn’t quit band. Parents are busy and work long hours but it is important to stay involved in what your kids are doing and what they are thinking.”
For teachers, he recommends staying organized and in touch with parents. “It is hard because we are all busy but it pays off for everyone.“
Meincke will conclude his middle school band directing career with the eighth-grade farewell performance on June 7.