Spotlight on Tony White, Advisory Board Member
"Playing music was wonderful and teaching music was just as soul fulfilling."
What is your occupation and job position?
I am the Administrative Coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s – Beyond the Bell Branch Music and Entertainment Education Program. I oversee programs such as the Annual Band and Drill Team Championships, the All-District Honor Marching and Jazz Band Programs and music festivals. I also recommend and place secondary music teachers into classrooms across the LAUSD and support them as they bring music to thousands of students. This work is near and dear to my heart. I grew up in LAUSD, graduated from Narbonne High School and was hired for my first teaching position at John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles. Being a product of the district I have built my career in has rooted me to this district and its community.
How did you find yourself in the profession? Why?
I have always liked music from an early age. TV themes like the “Odd Couple”, “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Flintstones” showed me how music can speak; can make you feel. I realized later on that the ones that affected me the most were all jazzy, written by great jazz composers like Neil Hefti and Oliver Nelson. This led me to play an instrument. Unfortunately, the elementary school music teacher told me that I could not be in the music program, for whatever reason. However, I did join band in middle school and started playing the clarinet. The rest is history.
I have been playing saxophone, clarinet, and flute for the last 43 years. My time as a music student in middle school, high school, and in college let me see first-hand the joy and fulfillment my teachers received from teaching music. Playing music was wonderful and teaching music was just as soul fulfilling. I have been very fortunate to combine the two together into what is now a 35 year career in music education. And through it all, the WHY has been to inspire the next generation and to advocate for the secret super power of music and the arts!!
Tell us about your upbringing with music, and how that helped shape that you are today.
There were no instrumental musicians in my family to speak of. I do remember my grandmother singing a lot in the church and in the bathroom when I was a kid. I learned music in school music programs and by jamming with my friends after school. We would listen to records by artists such as Grover Washington, Jr., Chuck Mangione, Spro Gyra, and David Sanborn. There were also more instrumental solos on pop tunes played on the radio that I gravitated towards. Hearing the saxophone solo on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” blew my mind. Later I found out it was the great Phil Woods.
My thought about music today is that every student should be exposed to it (and all the arts for that matter!) and that there should be pathways for them to connect to it throughout their academic journey.
Why is ETM-LA’s mission so important to you?
Music and the arts represent creativity. Every student (adults, too!) needs a part of their day where they can explore their creative side. As a student, I looked forward to going to my music class every day. It fed my soul, not just my brain. I am bothered when students can’t explore music daily with their peers and an inspirational teacher. All students should be able to explore and value their creative side. ETM-LA’s mission to provide music as a comprehensive, core curriculum subject resonates deeply in my soul.