The Class of 2019

Gary Bernice

Director of Bands, Springfield High School of Science and Technology; Age 36
Education: UMass Amherst (BM, MM)

Gary Bernice

Gary Bernice

How do you define success? “Seek to serve, not to be served” is our SciTech Band commandment. My students and I post this motto on the entrance of our classroom door, write it on our chalkboard, print it on our band handbooks, embroider it on our band jackets, and flash it on our band website. Most importantly, we try to live out this commandment as a band family. We define true success as an action, not a status — the commitment to consistently and willingly put the needs of other people before ourselves in all that we do.

With 500 students, we are the largest band in the state of Massachusetts. Despite the challenges of an urban school district like ours, and the fact that 99% of our students have never played an instrument before, they are still able to inspire audiences throughout the region. Our students are three times more likely to stay in school and were the recipients of the Massachusetts Commonwealth Award, the state’s highest honor given for achievement in the arts. Our band even received a personal letter from President Obama praising them for dreaming big dreams and improving our community.

Most people would describe these accomplishments as our success story. However, our real success story is about who we are and who we strive to be — a band family that serves each other and our school, shares the joy of music with our city, cares for the people around us, takes a stand for justice, and empowers students to become leaders and make a lasting difference in our community.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Never give up and always believe in my students.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Jesus. I would love to hear his guidance in person. As of 2019, deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide — so-called ‘deaths of despair’ — are destroying people and contributing to our nation’s declining life expectancy. As a teacher, I see these symptoms of despair and hopelessness every day in my classroom. It breaks my heart to see people (especially my students) believe they are not loved or valued. I know that Jesus, in his compassion, would share some insightful words to give me strength and encouragement as I try to build up the people around me.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

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