Music has always been an integral part of Karen Seamans’ life. “From the time I was about 3, my father would prop me up to play his tenor sax,” she recalls fondly. When she discovered the clarinet in 3rd grade, it stuck with her and she continued to play throughout her years in high school; soon joining the marching band and having many wonderful experiences.
Fast forward years later, Karen finds herself back in those very same halls. This time as the esteemed Band Director of Gillette Rd. Middle School and Cicero-North Syracuse High School in Cicero, New York. A true homecoming story, she herself graduated from Cicero-North Syracuse, attended Syracuse University where she obtained her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Music Education, and returned home where she has been teaching for the last 22 years. Continuously learning, she furthered her educational leadership experience through Principal qualifications, administration, curriculum writing committees, piloted textbooks, professional development seminars, and recently completed the Conn-Selmer VIP Director session.
“She truly sees the potential in every student and will adjust her direction on the spot to ensure that she reaches each child.”
At the beginning of her career, Karen found herself at Cicero Elementary teaching classroom music to grades K-4, as well as chorus. It was there that she developed her signature grade-level teaching style for performances, ensuring every child had a special part to play. These concerts became so well-attended, they were eventually split into two shows to accommodate growing audiences. And it wasn’t just the audience that was growing, it was student participation too – later increasing to 75% for some grade levels. With her eyes on a future Band teaching position, she then transferred to a middle school role teaching classroom music and after-school chorus for grades 5-7 at both Roxboro Rd. and Gillette Rd. Middle Schools. There she assisted with parade band at Roxboro, eventually moving into a band position at Gillete where she founded the Gillette Band Club, Colorgard clubs and ran fundraisers to build a competitive program. Planning combined events, she worked with colleagues to execute festival competitions around the state, receiving top honors.
Even during college, Karen was already giving back to her alma mater; holding over four different band leadership positions before finally taking over as Band Director in 2013. Still at an all-time low in numbers and achievement, she began the process of rebuilding the program after a devastating competitive setback ignited her recruitment motivation. This pushed her to initiate several recruitment programs to help generate new student participation, as well as retention through middle/high school collaborative concerts, parental involvement, and information sessions. In 2016 she began writing drill for the band and led them undefeated to their first state championship in 29 years. Following accomplishments included: First place at TaxSlayer Bowl Contest of Champions, US Bands A Class National Champions, NY State Field Band 3rd place Champions – as well as selection to perform in the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
“What Karen has done for the students, the marching band, the school district and the community as a whole cannot be quantified. In just 6 short years, Karen has rebuilt the CNS Northstars Marching Band into one of the largest co-curricular organizations in the district. Impacting hundreds of students and becoming a focus of pride throughout the community.”
This year, following the success of her 2018 season, 155 members are registered for competition. More than double from where it began just 6 short years ago. Attending Bands of America Regional, they placed 3rd in their class and won the award for best music, heading to the finals where they placed 8th overall. Not only has she led her bands to the winner’s circle, the Varsity and Junior Winterguard teams have also seen their fair share of championships.
While her students find on-field success, Karen equally promotes her students finding success off-field. “I want my students to grow up to be great people,” said Seamans. “I am as concerned about teaching my students life-skills as I am about musical skills.” She actively takes interest in their overall academic progress through parent/teacher collaborations to ensure failure is not an option. By holding her students to high standards, she hopes to make them independent learners and people. By teaching them about responsibility and accountability, she aims to show them the value of the hard work that comes along with achieving great things. It is for these qualities, many accomplishments and honors that Music & Arts is proud to recognize Karen Seamans as the recipient of the 2019 Music & Arts Music Educator of the Year Award.