If BJ Cox were to affix a moral to his music teaching skills, it would be that hard work pays off.
For two years, the Indian Hills music leader and his students have tried out for the State Junior High Band Festival. Two years in a row, the band didn’t make it but Cox and his students didn’t give up. Each time the band wasn’t selected, they improved, little by little. Now, Indian Hills’ concert band has been chosen as one of the top 15 bands to perform at the State Junior High Band Festival on March 17 at the University of Utah.
“My expectation of the kids is always to be better than you were the day before,” Cox says. “You always want to be the best you can be, and do the best you can, always, and we always want to be going forward. It’s not perfection on the first day.”
Cox joined Indian Hills four years ago as the school’s music teacher, but his work began even before he set foot in the classroom. At the beginning of the school year, every year, Cox hosts a barbecue for his students, their families, and anyone else in the community who wants to attend. His entire program has 250 people, of which 63 belong to the concert band.
“Not only do we teach them how to play, but we teach them how to think musically,” Cox says. “It isn’t just ‘Mr. Cox’s band program’ here, I believe everyone belongs and everyone has a part.”
Cox’s concert band auditioned to perform in the Utah Music Educators Association State Junior High Band Festival by playing “Kights of Destiny” for a panel of UMEA judges. As winners of the top 15 spot, the students will perform at Libby Gardner Hall on the University of Utah Campus on March 17 and they’ll have some bragging rights as one of the two school districts from the Salt Lake valley to be participating.
One of the ways Cox has been successful is through his understanding of the power of music for his students. Music helps with brain development, self-confidence, professional experiences and resiliency, he says, so he does all he can to make sure his students receive the best opportunities available.
As a music student, Cox made it a point to learn how to master every instrument his students play from the drums to the piccolo. He models the best techniques and sounds for every instrument and expects his students to make measured improvements.
On top of that, Cox arranges for professional musicians to regularly visit his classroom to give his students pointers and special mentoring sessions. His efforts have not been in vain. As his students learn, Cox does too.
“I have had some of the best players in the state and country right here in my room,” Cox said between classes at Indian Hills one recent afternoon. “I ‘ve learned a ton from them.”