We had the good fortune of connecting with Oliver Diez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Oliver, what do you attribute your success to?
The success my music program has achieved in the last two decades is due to many important factors, such as motivated students who were eager to learn, compassionate parents who- not only support their child but our performing arts program, and a school administration who supports and appreciates all my hard work towards my program. However, I believe the most significant factor which initiated this incredible journey for my students and I, was having high expectations. During my interview, back in April 1999, the current principal asked me what my goal was. My response was prompt and full of confidence, “I want to have an elementary school concert band.” I did not begin playing the saxophone until I was in the seventh grade, but I always wished I would have had the opportunity to have played it sooner. I was aware this journey would have many obstacles and would resemble a rollercoaster ride, but all I focused on was the result. I strongly believe age is not a factor when it comes to playing a musical instrument. I decided to run my elementary program as if it was a middle school, and that is where the high expectations arose. I began teaching all students in second through fifth grade to read music and play the recorder. A few years later, I simplified my lessons even more to give my first graders that same opportunity with learning and playing the recorder, and students began to shine with excitement on how well they were reading music and playing an instrument.
Fast forward a few years and we had formed a chorus, beginning band, concert band, jazz combo, and string orchestra- which was the beginning of our school’s first ever performing arts program. Palmetto elementary has never been a magnet school, but that was not going to keep us from performing like one. Competing annually at Universal Studios’ Music USA Festival was another reason for all of us to practice harder throughout the school year alongside preparing for countless school concerts and community performances. Our program reached a new milestone when our elementary band and chorus students were invited to perform at the world-famous Carnegie Hall on March of 2019. This was the true highlight of my music teaching career.
Most of our band students began playing their instrument in second grade, giving them four years in band before they move onto middle school. I have noticed many of my fifth graders performed at a musical level more advanced than when I was a high school freshman. My students’ success has been my motivation and continues to drive me to continue teaching music. High expectations have been the key to my success in music education. Receiving a text from a former chorus student letting me know she had gone to the next round in “American Idol”, receiving a phone call from a former band student to let me know he had been accepted to Julliard School of Music, and having another former band student call me to let me know he was in the process of recording and producing his very own album have been a few of the many incredible accomplishments that were due to high expectations and encouraging my students. No matter how young they were, they could push themselves and become amazing and talented musicians.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The most important lessons I have learned during my career is that us teachers need to use many strategies to reach out to all students. Every child not only learns at a different pace but with different approaches. Patience is another very important factor educators must have. Without patience both teacher and student will get very exasperated, and the lesson’s goal will not be attained.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mother and father who supported my love for music early on and all throughout my college years and my wife, Alina, and our two sons, Ollie and Matt, who during my incredible career have stood by my side during the countless concerts and performances and have been a part of them as well.