A Morehead State graduate has been nationally recognized with a National Federal High School Outstanding Music Educator Award.
Aaron Bowling, the choir director at Boyd County High School - where he teaches choir, guitar classes, and advanced placement music theory - learned about the award just before Christmas.
“It was the biggest surprise, because I had no idea I had even been nominated,” said Bowling.
The nomination was automatic through an earlier Kentucky Music Educators Association High School Music Teacher of the Year Award.
On Wednesday, he stood on the auditorium stage with a portion of the high school’s choir, as he took the students through the pronunciation of each word in their assessment piece. The music, written in another language, will be performed by the choir in March and evaluated by the KMEA.
Bowling spoke each word, listened the choir members repeat it and then took them through each part of the harmony for the piece with a keyboard.
Bowling’s voice rang out from behind his mask as he shared how the piece should be performed. The students listened and sang along with their harmonies, some with more confidence than others.
Bowling has a knack for pushing his students to their musical best, while seeing their humanity along the way. That’s why Daisy Conn and Emily Harrington, two seniors in the choir, believe Bowling was deserved his national recognition.
“He constantly pushes us, yes, we’re nitpicking at things to the very end to work our hardest,” said Harrington.
“And, in a very constructive and nice way,” Conn added.
Bowling’s ability to relate and get the best out of students goes beyond music.
“He’s more than a teacher,” said Harrington. “He doesn’t just give us some work and we do it and call it a day. He really looks out for every single student. You feel completely comfortable going to talk to him about anything.”
Just as each note has its value in a song, so do the students who find themselves in Bowling’s classes. His passion is recognizable in how he instructs and interacts with his students.
“He’s really good at including everyone and just making everyone feel comfortable and, also, he checks up on people,” said Conn.
The NFHS awarded eight sectional awards and 15 state awards for the school year. Bowling was awarded a sectional award for Outstanding Music Educator covering Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District of Columbia, Bowling shared.
Harrington said that Bowling is great about getting students up to date with where they need to be in order to succeed.
“Everyone’s learning constantly,” said Harrington.
“He’s setting us up to excel in music as a whole,” said Conn.
Teaching choir and guitar allows Bowling to continue in two things he loves.
“I’ve played guitar since I was a little kid,” said Bowling. “That was my introduction into music, but choir was always a passion of mine as well. I get to do both of my passions, which is an amazing thing to me. I just love it.”
“We have a lot of fun in class,” said Conn. “We don’t just sing, we learn a lot about music theory too. He teaches us about sight reading.”
The choir will be judged on their sight-reading abilities at the KMEA festival in March. The choir is given a piece of music they have never seen before and will have two chances to perform it for judges.
Harrington explained the sense of accomplishment when a piece comes together. The choir is split into two separate classes, so the students don’t get to hear the full breadth of the piece on the day-to-day.
“Near the end when everything just comes together because we work on songs in pieces, and near the end you just put it all together and just hearing everything it’s really something,” said Harrington.
“It’s magical,” added Conn.
Another piece of the magic behind the choir at Boyd County High School is the community, said Conn.
“The friendships we build, especially within our groups, like all the altos have a really tight bond,” she said. “It’s really cool.”
Bowling has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Morehead State University, as well as a master’s degree in choral conducting.
Bowling began his journey with Boyd County in 2001 when he was a student teacher under the advisement of former high school choir director Carl Taylor, who he replaced in 2014 following Taylor’s retirement.
For a short time, he pulled-double-duty teaching at the high school and Catlettsburg Elementary.
“I’m just excited that I get to teach at Boyd County and that my administration and my students and my co-workers all support what we do,” said Bowling. “Our music department in general, our school and our students, they all support everything that goes on here. It’s just really nice to have a supportive environment.”