Music teacher puts ‘pep’ in IUS pep band

IUS Horizon

One, two, three, four, ready…

The sounds of trumpets, tubas, clarinets, mellophones, trombones and percussions echo against the concrete walls of the Activities Building. The vibration of the instruments rumble through the bleachers as Jennifer Gordon, IUS pep band director, conducts her band, The Southeast Sound.

Jennifer Gordon

“Nothing beats bringing excitement to the games better than a live music group,” Gordon said. “That extra presence really helps get the fans and teams into the game.”

Denny Williams, assistant athletics director, enjoys the new addition of the pep band.

“Last year was the first year for the pep band,” Williams said. “Starting from nothing, she has done better than I expected. Both basketball coaches have mentioned how they have enjoyed the pep band, especially the heckling of the opposing team. It helps to cover the awkward silence from the fans.”

Williams said he also knows this is only a starting point for Gordon.

“I know her career goal is to become a band director,” Williams said. “I know it will happen, and I will hate to lose her. She’s done an excellent job of recruiting for pep band, especially from high schools.”

Growing up in Southern Indiana, Gordon played clarinet in sixth grade, and, as a result of a music degree from the University of Louisville, she now plays all instruments pertaining to band.

“I knew in eighth grade that I wanted to be a band director,” Gordon said. “My only true interest besides knitting and besides knitting and archery that I have only recently taken up, has been music.”

Gordon’s husband Scott said she is committed to the band members and encourages them to do their best.

“Jennifer is always communicating with the band members to make sure they understand the music,” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody more dedicated to students than she. We’re not married when we are at pep band.”

Gordon said she met Scott in 2009 on a bus heading to a drum corps competition.
“He was a troublemaker, so I made him sit in the front seat with me,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I’ve never been able to get rid of him since.”

Scott said there is no confusion about who is in charge when they are working together. He said he offers suggestions only to the students.

“She changes every life she touches,” Scott said. “As far as I know, every one of her students look up to her.”

Bryan Jones, Floyd Central High School senior, is one of those students and has known Gordon for six years.

“She taught me bagpipes in sixth grade,” Jones said. “She’s a great teacher. You can ask her anything, and she won’t make fun of you. She is always calm when she teaches small kids. She’s such a great person. She loves music and she cares about it.”

Since learning the bagpipes, Gordon said there have been some inspirational moments in her life.

“Every year at Floyd Central’s graduation I have been asked to play ‘Amazing Grace’ with the bagpipes,” Gordon said. “There’s always a standing ovation after it’s over. It’s pretty emotional. I also played my sister’s graduation in 2009. That meant a lot to me.”

Gordon, better known as “Scooter” at Borden High School, works with its band director Jenny Jochim teaching music, as well as marching band. Gordon currently substitute teaches, but is hopeful she will soon get a full-time teaching position.

“My cats wake me up every morning and then I wait for the phone to ring to sub at a school,” Gordon said. “I am thrilled I am living my dream, because music is my life.”

Gordon said she uses different teaching techniques she learned from her previous band instructors.

One of these instructors is Philip Thomas, IUS concert band director. Thomas was Gordon’s band teacher at Floyd Central.

“He was very detailed in his teaching, and that’s how I teach band kids today,” Gordon said. “He would also tell me stories and make me laugh. He made it a lot of fun.”

Austin Mertsin, Borden sophomore and trombone player, has worked with Gordon in marching band for two years at Borden High School.

“She makes it even more fun at pep band,” Mertsin said. “She can, and has, made a difference at IU Southeast.”

Gordon’s mother, Nancy Spainhour, said ever since Gordon started playing the clarinet in sixth grade she was hooked. She has been a band geek ever since, she said.

“It’s what she loves,” she said.