Students see a musical future jamming at districtwide concert

At Dallas ISD, students get to be rockstars for a few minutes. That’s how Seagoville High School modern band and fine arts director Rodney Dittmar explained the experience of students coming together for the Dallas ISD Modern Band All-City Jam, which Seagoville Middle School hosted last month. Now in its 13th year, it has been an annual tradition at the school since 2011. 

The 14 district schools that participated all have modern band programs with students from elementary to high school. Dittmar said that it’s always such an honor to have the other schools come out to Seagoville and represent their school and showcase the work they’ve been doing.

“The part that is really cool for me is the little ones get to see the older students, and everyone enjoys each other’s performances,” he said. 

One of the highlights for Dittmar was seeing his own daughter Rebekah, who attends Eduardo Mata Montessori, perform on stage. With her school band, she sang “Under Pressure,” an iconic song made famous by the rock band Queen. 

For a couple of videos highlighting some of the students’ work at the Modern Band All-City Jam, click here and here.

Dittmar, who is also a Regional Music Will Ambassador, said he received nothing but positive feedback from students—after all, he organized this with them in mind as an opportunity to highlight their talents and share their creativity as musicians, he said. It allowed them to begin to feel what it’s like to play on a stage and to be performers.

At Seagoville Middle School, Seagoville High School and 19 other secondary campuses, students have guitar and modern band classes during the day, but it might look different on other campuses. Some campuses offer modern band after school. Either way, Dittmar said he’s motivated by the way the program has grown throughout the district. The district currently has over 100 Music Will programs. 

Beyond the concert, Dittmar and colleague Olympia McClendon, fine arts director at Felix G. Botello Elementary School, have helped other schools bring modern band to their campuses. In addition to their work as teachers, they also plan events, such as a fall workshop at L.V. Stockard Middle School, and work with Matthew Edwards, director of choral, elementary, and general music for the district, to expand the program. Music teacher Beth Poquette Drews also plays an important role in coordinating the workshop at Stockard.


They help teachers get the instruments and the training, as well as professional development. While the teachers are already there in the schools, they work with them to make sure they have the resources they need. 

The ultimate goal—and Dittmar’s mission—through all these opportunities is to put music programs like these in underserved schools. He and his colleagues have witnessed how music can transform and change lives, he said, so the work continues.

The schools who participated in the Dallas ISD Modern Band All-City Jam were:

Emmett J. Conrad High School

Daniel Webster Elementary School

Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School

John W. Runyon Elementary School

Felix Botello Elementary School

Leslie A. Stemmons Elementary School

Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy

Gilbert Cuellar Sr. Elementary School

Eduardo Mata Montessori

School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove

Seagoville Middle School

Seagoville High School


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