New music teachers take the baton

There’s been a changing of the guard at local schools as two new music teachers have taken up the baton in North Big Horn County.

Nick Tolman is teaching 6-12 band and high school choir at Rocky Mountain Middle/High School after replacing Spencer Clark, and Jessica Schreiner is the new band director at Lovell Middle School and Lovell High School, taking over for Dane Mickelson.

Both young teachers bring great enthusiasm to the job.

New Rocky Mountain Middle/High School music teacher Nick Tolman.
New Lovell High School and Middle School instrumental music teacher Jessica Schreiner.

Tolman comes to north Big Horn County from southeast Idaho. He grew up in American Falls, graduating in 2005. His primary band instrument is the trombone, and he has also played the violin since age 4, playing with string programs in Pocatello. His mother is the band director at Irving Middle School in Pocatello.

“I’ve always been around the whole music scene,” Tolman said, “growing up in a music teaching atmosphere.”

Tolman’s next two (of three) younger siblings have also pursued careers in music education. His sister is on track to graduate next spring from Idaho State University with a music ed degree, and his brother is serving a mission in the West Indies (Caribbean, based in Trinidad and currently serving in Guadeloupe, speaking French) after a year at BYU in music.

After his graduation in 2005, Tolman attended Idaho State University for one year, then served a two-year mission in Riverside, Calif. He returned to ISU and finished his degree, graduating in May of 2012. He did his student teaching at Skyline High School and Eagle Rock Middle School in Idaho Falls.

Tolman has been married for almost three years, he said, meeting his wife, Allison, in the ISU pep band. She also plays trombone, as well as clarinet and piano.

Allison Tolman is the school nurse in Burlington and is taking classes at Northwest College to become a registered nurse. She’s currently a licensed practical nurse.

Tolman is directing the sixth, seventh/eighth and high school bands, and he’s also hoping to start a jazz band. He’s also directing the high school concert choir. He said he is pleased to be teaching and living in north Big Horn County.

“This is a really good place for me to get started,” Tolman said. “I was really happy to be able to find a good job. I came and interviewed here and really liked the area. It reminded me of the town I grew up in, and my mom taught in the small town of Rockland.

“We saw some nursing possibilities around here, some places nearby where Allison would be able to work and go to school. That was a big plus for us.”

Tolman said the Rocky Mountain groups he directs will strive for excellence.

“For me, the most effective music program is able to instill pride and prestige in the music,” he said. “I want to help the kids realize that they have accomplished something good, helping them succeed and do the best they can do with their instruments and their voices.

“I like to try to make things fun and exciting so it doesn’t get monotonous. I want to make things fun and unique and fresh.”

Loving the West

Jessica Schreiner has come west from the state of New York. She grew up in Saratoga, graduating in 2004 from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, where she played the clarinet and saxophone.

Schreiner attended the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York Potsdam, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 2008.

Wanting to see another part of the country, she moved west to Greeley, Colo., where she earned her Master’s of Music Education at the University of Northern Colorado in 2009. With that year of experience, she decided to stay in the West.

“I liked the way they approached music and education out here,” she said, “so I started looking for jobs.”

Schreiner landed a job in Ekalaka, Mont., where she taught K-12 band, choir, general music, jazz band, pep band and musical theater.

“If it was music, it came from me and my kids,” she said, “the community choir, the whole nine yards. Then having done all of it, I found what I got the most excited about was band. I started looking for jobs where I could focus on that.”

In her job search, Schreiner said she spent a lot of time on school websites and liked what the Lovell school system had to say about integrating all school subjects and helping the whole student reach full potential in every subject.

“In music there’s so much going on,” she said. “There’s always something where you can find and help a student reach full potential. Every kid has potential. You just need to find it and help him grow.”

Like Tolman, Schreiner is very excited about the new year.

“I bring a lot of energy to school,” she said. “I wake up and get so excited that I get to come and teach kids and share what I love, which is music. I try to share that excitement with the kids. Especially in the middle school, you give a kid a variety of experiences so they can try new things. It’s all about experimentation in middle school.”

Schreiner’s high school band is very small, nine students, but she said that allows her a lot of one-on-one time with the students. She said the band students are very talented, well taught and they “aren’t content to just be OK. They want to do well.”

She said she’s loving her job so far, noting, “the kids are great and the staff has been so helpful.”

By David Peck