Daviess County High School Assistant Band Director Nate Clark is just one of three sons in the Clark family to carry on the family legacy of music and impact the students in the Daviess County Public Schools with his talents.
Nate’s father, Mike Clark, retired from DCPS as the previous DCHS band director in 2003. Nate’s brother Andrew spent two years as the Apollo High School band director, while assisting with Burns and College View Middle Schools, before returning to school in Texas to pursue the education and training necessary to become a professional jazz musician. Nate’s youngest brother Neal was recently hired as the music teacher at Southern Oaks Elementary School, and also works with the second DCHS jazz band, drumline and indoor winds group. Not to be forgotten, the boys’ mother, former DCPS Assistant Superintendent Julie Clark, had a music minor and a tremendous talent for playing bassoon.
While it would appear that the Clark family has an undeniable passion and talent for music, Nate Clark has recently discovered that his DCHS family of teachers and students also have much to contribute to the strength of their music program.
In August of this year, shortly after school started, Nate was approached by sophomore and French horn player Emma Smith about an experience she had encountered this past summer while attending the 2018 Music for All Summer Symposium at Ball State University in Indiana.
Although Smith has attended the camp for the last two summers, she said this year was different because she was able to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs through United Sound.
According to their website, United Sound is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide musical performance experiences for students with special needs through peer mentorship.
“We worked on the music with them using the ‘cup and soup’ program. You say cup for a quarter note and then soup for a half note,” Smith said. “We worked with them and it was just amazing to see how much they enjoyed it. It was just a really life-changing experience and I just wanted to bring that back for students at my school.”
Once Smith brought the idea of United Sound to Nate, the two agreed that they would need to discuss the idea with special education teacher Kandi Gilbreath and wait until marching band season was over. They also needed the approval of the school’s site-based committee, which they have recently received.
“United Sound at DCHS is going to be a one day a week after school club offering,” Nate said. “It will involve two groups of students. There are the new musician participants which are all special education students who are taught on a daily basis by Mrs. Kandi Gilbreath and the peer mentors.”
Smith took the extra steps necessary to create a sign-up sheet and encourage members of the band and color guard to become peer mentors. Instrument tryouts will begin next week on Dec. 17 and the new musicians will begin meeting with their peer mentors once a week in January through the middle of May.
“We’ll be going through a training program with Mrs. Gilbreath — all of the peer mentors will — before we work with the new musicians,” Smith said. “I think there will be some challenges, but we’re all going to be there to help each other.”
Gilbreath, who works with students with moderate and severe disabilities, is looking forward to her high school students having opportunities they might not otherwise have.
“At the high school level, my kids kind of lose opportunities,” Gilbreath said. “In middle school, especially, they can go out into music class and participate. In high school, you really can’t.”
Nate is also looking forward to the opportunities this program will provide to students both in a learning and performance aspect.
“One of the stipulations of United Sound as an organization is that every kid that is a new musician in United Sound has to have some kind of performance opportunity either with the full band, the full orchestra, whatever your instrumental ensemble is at your school,” Nate said. “We’re really looking forward to that — we think it’s going to be special.”
Gilbreath said, initially, she thought all of her students would need to play percussion, but then she researched United Sound.
“Once I started watching the videos, I saw how doable it was,” said Gilbreath, who is also a coach for Special Olympics. “I have some pretty cool kids in here, so it’s going to be pretty neat. It’s like special Olympics for band.”
Going forward, Nate is anticipating a positive musical and social experience for all involved.
“It’s kind of designed not only to benefit the new musicians in the form of helping them to have an emotionally safe social environment where they get to interact with just run of the mill music kids,” Nate said, “but also to sort of help our peer mentors become better leaders, better socializers, better communicators in dealing with this very unique group of students.”
For more information about United Sound, visit their website here.