In describing music education, choral Music Artistic Committee member, Rollo Dilworth, says “It’s not about building the voices, it’s about building people.” It is apparent that Karen and Joey Paul practice this philosophy every day.

From Aledo High School, Texas husband and wife music educators, Karen Paul and Joey Paul, will direct their ensembles at the Music for All National Festival; Karen, the Treble Choir, and Joey, the Wind Ensemble. The Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha, is a national showcase of the finest scholastic musicians. Selected by audition, participating ensembles have achieved the highest level of musical performance and artistry.

Husband and wife directors have participated in the festival in the past, but not in the same year. Here are some thoughts from this dynamic musical couple as they prepare for the Music for All National Festival in Indianapolis, March 12-14, 2020.

Our respect for each other and our programs is reflected through our students.

What made you decide to apply to the Music for All National Festival in the same year?

Joey: I have been interested in applying for the Music for All National Festival for quite some time since talking to a lot of my local colleagues. Karen was really looking for a new experience for her choir program and I encouraged her to apply so we could collaborate as a music program.

Karen: I was really wanting a great experience for my students. They had been working so hard and making wonderful improvements every day. I talked to Joey about it, he said that the MFA festival was open to choirs now, and that he was thinking about submitting his recordings. I was determined to give it a try, too!

Were you on “pins and needles” waiting to hear if both of you’d been accepted by your audio submissions?

Joey: Of course, we were on “pins and needles” because there were the thoughts of what if the band isn’t accepted or what if the choir isn’t accepted.   At the same time, we felt really confident with the programs we submitted.

Karen: I was very excited for the results. I felt confident that the band had a great chance to make it. But, we are relatively young in the contest/festival area. I think I always have a glimmer of doubt and wonder if our product is as good as I think it is.

We never miss a chance to make a fun moment between us.

How has preparing in the same year influenced the unity of your music program?

Joey: We believe this will sink in more with our students once the community send-off concert and the National Festival are complete. This is going to be something very special for the students.

Has the camaraderie expanded beyond the choir and band? To the student body?

Joey: As we get closer to the event, the students are really getting excited for us. The administration, parents, school board, and community have been very supportive of this achievement.

What is it like teaching together every day?

Karen: With our schedules, we really don’t see each other much. Ironically, our rooms are right next door, but we still don’t get a chance to talk much.

Do you “take your work home with you?”

Joey: At times….I do this more than Karen.

Karen: Of course, we do! I don’t know how in the world to make things happen without it. There is not enough time in the day! I try to limit my time at home to after the kids go to bed, but that is not always possible. Joey doesn’t think he does, and probably will not admit it, but we all know better!

How does your relationship spill over into everyday teaching? The schedules for high school band and choir are chock-full. With the responsibilities of preparing for the National Festival in addition to your regularly scheduled activities, how do you manage?

Joey: Day by day and one foot in front of the other. At the end of the day, I know she has got my back and vice versa.

Karen: I think it enables our students to appreciate both forms of music a lot more than other places where there is usually a jealously between programs. Our respect for each other and our programs is reflected through our students and I love to watch them learn to respect and support each other in their craft.

It was clear at our school visit that the Aledo Band and Choir have a very special relationship. They were very supportive of one another and had a great sense of jovial repartee. To what do you attribute this unique relationship?

Karen: We never miss a chance to make a fun moment between us. The kids see that. And of course, they know that we love and respect each other…so they in turn do the same.

Joey: We believe the kids see a small glimpse of the relationship in us and it trickles down to them.

Take time for everything with the students, not just the music.

How do you maintain it?

Joey: With a lot of hard work and support. Maintaining a program always seems harder than building one.

Karen: Take time for everything with the students, not just the music. Even the small things that we probably don’t perceive as important. Be in tune to what is important to them and help them decipher the world. We have to remember that we are helping to shape their future. Always have their growth not only as a musician, but as a person, in mind.

What are you most looking forward to at the Music for All National Festival, and how do you hope the experience will impact your music program?

Joey: We hope that this will be a memory that the students will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives. We hope the experience will be something the younger students aspire to do later in their high school band/choir years.

Karen: I am hoping for a memory that these students will take away and hold dear to their hearts for many years to come. We are a very close. Truly a family! I think when we do music right, it does that.  Maybe even more so in vocal music. In vocal music you are dealing with your personal voice, a part of you is being shared. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of your peers to truly grow. That’s pretty deep and an incredibly mature thing for kids at this age!

Hector Olazaran, band president, Joey Paul, Karen Paul, London Kasper, choir president