Will Rogers Junior High band director, Joy Maynard, has been named the District Teacher of the Year for Claremore.

An 18-year educator with Claremore Public Schools, Maynard has spent it all at the junior high, directing the Concert Band and Jazz Band.

“I feel like I’ve walked under a blessing cloud since I’ve been in Claremore,” Maynard said of her time here.

And now she is being honored for her dedication with a chance to represent the district in the Teacher of the Year regional finals. Three teachers from each of four regions across the state will be announced later this month. The finalists will attend the State Leadership Conference in July with State Superintendent Sandy Garrett.

Maynard has made her mark in Claremore with her bands known for their discipline, stage presence and unforgettable sound.

“The Jazz Band has put the junior high out in the community,” she said. “For the last 15 solid years we’ve averaged 25 concerts a year. We’ve played to over 100,000 people.”

The band performs throughout the community for banquets, civic clubs, elementary schools and annual events such as the Veterans Hospital Christmas party and Good Sams gathering.

“The Good Sams say they couldn’t do a convention without us,” she grinned.

They’ve also made appearances on Tulsa television morning shows.

But a highlight of recent years has been performing at Branson on Stage Live! — a program that promotes music education and demonstrates the need for fine arts in schools.

For eight years now the Jazz Band has traveled to Branson once a year to open for shows such as Lawrence Welk, Doug Gabriel, the Showboat Branson Belle, Presleys, Haygoods and Magician Hamner Barber.

In the summer of 2003, they were invited for the second time that year — all expenses paid — to perform for a group of professional tour directors from about a dozen states considering taking a band to Branson.

The Jazz Band’s success supports the Concert Band, Maynard said.

“We’ve made superior ratings for 18 years at the Band and Choral Festival at College of the Ozarks,” Maynard said. “Lots of times kids don’t realize what we’ve done until they’re gone and the impact of that and how much fun it was sinks in.”

During her time in Claremore, Maynard estimates 1,000 students have been in her bands.

But the many accolades received over the years haven’t come without plenty of hard work and discipline. It’s a lesson Maynard teaches her seventh and eighth grade students early on.

“I’ve discovered you can’t make it without being organized and giving responsibility back to them,” she said.

A sign that reads, “Excellence Is Our Habit,” hangs in band room and is a constant reminder of the extra effort expected everyday.

Students are required to practice a certain amount of time outside of school each week, which is recorded on a time sheet. They also must come to class prepared with their instrument, music and pencil in hand. It all affects their grade which they receive individually and as a group.

“We can’t have a ‘C’ average band,” Maynard said.

With each member striving for excellence, the junior high students, under Maynard’s leadership, transform themselves into a professional sounding group that is a source of pride for themselves and their community.

It’s a feeling that never gets old.

“I love the look in their eyes when they finally realize they’re making music and not just playing notes,” she said. “Being able to express yourself musically can’t be expressed with words because it goes straight to your soul.”