For nearly three decades, music students in Winlock honed their instrumental and singing skills under the direction of Karl Scarborough. As the only music teacher in Winlock School District, he serves as both band and choir director at the middle school, high school and fifth grade.
Scarborough grew up in Okanogan with a very musical family involved in the arts. His mother was a professional singer and his dad was an art and drama teacher. After six years in the Navy, he went on to pursue a degree in music education at Eastern Washington University. In college, he was required to take a quarter on each instrument. He can play just about anything but is enjoying playing the euphonium currently.
After teaching for one year in Cle Elum, Scarborough moved to Winlock with his family. When he started there were only 12 kids in the high school band.
With a commitment to creating a positive classroom environment that supports students, while school is in session, Scarborough’s class is open for his music students to come in and hang out before school. He tells them the instruments and equipment are theirs and they must take care of them.
With an appreciation of every kind of music, from classical, classic rock to rap, he feels it is especially important to know that not everyone can become American Idols and professional musicians. “We need to instill the appreciation of music,” says Scarborough. “We cannot accomplish anything without making mistakes. You have to correct them and learn.”
Knowing many kids enjoy video games, Scarborough is very animated while teaching to keep their attention. His music classes are a family. While he’d love to teach music to kids for seven hours a day, he only gets them for 55 minutes, so the focus is on quality and not quantity.
Friday is karaoke day in Scarborough’s classroom with students finding songs to perform in front of the class. This is a twofold lesson as the students who are not singing learn how to be an audience – great practice for when they go to the opera.
When learning something new to music, it helps retain the information. One of Scarborough’s favorite sayings is, “Music is the grease that greases the motor that gets the education process going.”
The love he has for music and his students in Winlock is admirable. He was so surprised when he found out he was inducted into the Washington Music Educators Hall of Fame. Picking up his mail from the office, he thought he was opening a letter saying it was time to pay his dues, but it was a letter saying he was an inductee into the Hall of Fame.
To be considered for this accolade teachers must be nominated by someone. Then nominees are required to provide references and go before a board of directors. It is a very thorough process to give recognition for exceptional support, inspiration and outstanding contribution to the growth and development of music education.
The honor is one he so richly deserves. While the average career span of a music teacher is three to four years, Scarborough has far surpassed that with decades of enthusiastic teaching under his belt.
At his induction ceremony in February, Scarborough’s 85-year-old mother who rarely travels attended. “When I look at the other names in the hall of fame it is very humbling to be a part of that,” he says.
After all these years, Scarborough loves when he sees former students and they tell him how much of an impact that he has made on them. To his joy, one of his students David Hoogkamer became a music teacher as well and taught music at Toledo School District.
Scarborough shared some advice with Hoogkamer when he started teaching. Family is first always is what he thinks is important for teachers to remember as well as students. “If I have a student that can’t make it to a performance because of a family issue, I understand that,” says Scarborough.
Music is a part of everyone’s lives. It brings back important memories of significant parts of life. Teachers also can have a great impact on our lives. Many people remember an exceptionally good teacher who influenced them in some way as they grew up. With a positive outlook while encouraging and engaging his students in learning music, Scarborough is an example of a teacher to remember.
“It is all about the attitude – negativity breeds negativity,” says Scarborough. “You get to wake up every day and decide to have a great day or a bad day.” For the students in Winlock, Scarborough has made an impact each day while sharing his love of music.