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Trey Reely | July 2009

    The term band director has no pizzazz, so I’ve decided to find a different job title. Band teacher is bland, and music teacher is too general. Band conductor sounds forced, giving the impression that I wish I conducted an orchestra.
    None of these terms lend themselves to a form of address with any zing to it. Sure, we have Mr., Ms., or Mrs., but these all have weak points. The address Mr. lost some of its lustre after being used by a horse in the classic television show, Mr. Ed. Miss seems too diminutive (as in Little Miss Muffett). I like the term Dr. but feel getting a doctorate is a little too much work for a new job title.
    Athletic instructors get the endearing yet respectful term coach. I guess directors could be called music coaches but that seems like a contradiction in terms. Beside, the term literacy coach is in vogue, and it would look like musicians were jumping on an already full bandwagon.
    As far as I know, American band directors have never had an official title bestowed upon them. I did some research to find the most appropriate title. George Washington rejected several flowery titles including “His Highness the President of the United States of America, and Protector of Liberties” and “Most Mightiness.” He ended up with the more humble “President of the United States.” I confess that “Most Mightiness” has an impressive sound to it, but I tried to approach the search with a Washingtonian modesty.
After extensive research on Wikipedia, I came up with three possibilities: pandit, sensei, and maestro. In India, pandit is a term of great respect given to an expert in any field, including music. As I do not play many arrangements of Indian music, I felt this title was inappropriate and scratched that one off the list.
    Sensei is a Japanese title used to address teachers and other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and other authority figures. It also shows respect for someone who has reached a level of mastery in an art form. Accomplished novelists, musicians, and artists are addressed with this title. Sensei has come to be used in English to refer to third-party experts or coaches in operational and organizational excellence.
    I asked my students what they thought about calling me Sensei Reely. I believed the term had an authoritative, rough-around-the-edges cuddliness to it that they would find appealing – they laughed instead.
    I decided that perhaps the time was right to move the title maestro into the band world. Maestro, according to my extensive internet research, means  master or teacher in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It is used in English to indicate a master in an artistic field, usually someone who has gained enough knowledge within that field to teach students successfully.
    The title can sometime be conferred through sheer respect for an artist’s works. With a long history in music, this term seemed the best bet. Maestro Reely had just the zing I was seeking – a mix of class and respect. The students laughed even harder.
    Discouraged but undaunted, I tried to think of another way to gain acceptance for my new title. After several weeks, I decided that I should begin by asking next year’s beginners to refer to me as Maestro. Beginners will not know any better and might even call me “Your Majesty” if asked. Even better, I wondered how popular the title would become if every director in America taught this to beginners at the same time.
    So, this is what I ask you to do. Next year, tell all beginning players that they should refer to you as Maestro. (I have unilaterally chosen it over Sensei to save time.) Within a few years, the indoctrination should be complete.
Spread the word and good luck, Maestro.