James A. Steele ’89 recently achieved his personal 8th consecutive state championship title in the New York State Field Band Conference. Steele has been band director of Medina High School for a total of 21 years, during which time he has also taken leave to instruct the Junior Drum Corps and work on other musical projects.
Medina High School has claimed the state championship title for five years in a row and has a history of decisive victories in the Small Schools I Division. The marching band for the 2013-2014 school year included about 130 high school students under Steele’s direction. According to Steele, the nature of the marching band is to be inclusive of all students from all backgrounds.
“When kids are trying to find a niche, the music department can be a place where anybody can be included,” Steele says.
As a director and educator, Steele has worked to instill inspiration and dedication in his students. He says one of the biggest challenges is inspiring despite today’s culture of “instant gratification.”
“It is great to see students succeed that normally do not expect to achieve at high levels,” Steele says.
At HWS, Steele took part in the jazz ensemble and traveled abroad to Scotland to perform. He later went on to participate in the Empire Statesmen Drum & Bugle Corps, which traveled to global destinations like Sweden, Denmark, London, and New York City. “If only one of my students gets to travel to perform, then that makes my job worthwhile,” Steele says.
Steele double majored in music and economics after having the opportunity to take several music classes during his first year on campus. Steele explains that much of his profession involves problem-solving, and the education at HWS “prepares you for anything.”
A native of the region, Steele frequently visits campus to attend and perform at athletic events, saying that HWS is like a “family community.” Steele also received his M.S. from Ithaca College and took education classes from George Mason University.
The photo above features James Steele ’89 at a recent Hobart football game.