Oakdale’s New Band Director Encourages Optimism and Inclusion


Jonathan Castle

Ms. Burton walking her Marching Bear Band off the field after their inaugural performance at Friday night’s Football game.

Energy and optimism are the hallmarks of a great band director. Ms. Summer Burton, Oakdale High School’s new band director, encapsulates these qualities perfectly.

She’s eager about the upcoming marching band competition season: “I’m feeling really optimistic.”

She shared, “The students have a lot of energy and are really motivated to do well; I’m really excited to see how things go.”

Burton grew up in Carroll County, where she explains she acquired an interest in becoming a music teacher. It was “my band directors going through school [that inspired me to become a teacher], specifically my marching band director in high school. He turned my whole life around. After that, I realized what a profound impact teachers have on their students, and I really wanted to be able to pass that along.”

After recently graduating from Gettysburg College, she inadvertently stumbled into the Oakdale job: “When I was looking for jobs, Oakdale called me and said ‘We have a high school position open.’… I never thought I would get it… [Then I thought,] it’s a nice location, might as well interview. And here we are now!”

Oakdale’s marching band is proudly the largest in the county, at a whopping 78 members, which Burton described as an intimidating challenge, “especially being a first year teacher.” But now, she reveals, it’s become a fun project.

Quinn Walker, a Junior and snare drum player, explained that he’s enjoying Burton’s teaching style. “[She is] willing to listen to advice and recommendations from student leadership.” He also expresses that she directs in a relaxed manner.

Given the chance to observe a band leadership meeting, it was noted how the students were chatting enthusiastically amongst themselves, but also with Burton, about how disappointed they were that the previous night’s practice had been canceled due to a power outage.

This bubbling enthusiasm represents a clear goal in Burton’s itinerary: opening the arts programs at the school to be a more inclusive environment; not just among the students of her classes, but of the entire school.

Burton adds, “I would like other students to know that the band does work hard, and … we would love to see them at all our concerts. Seeing the community come together would be really great; everyone supporting everyone, like athletics[,] music, and arts.”

The excitement of her classes, the approaching marching competitions, football games, and the start of a new year have many hoping for great things in the music department’s future. Ms. Burton currently teaches Marching Band and Guitar.

Next semester she will be teaching Concert Band, Orchestra, and Piano, or, as she puts it, “all the music things.” Suffice to say, Oakdale is thrilled to welcome Ms. Burton to the community, and cannot wait to see what she does with the music department.