Teacher Tuesday: Robert Ash

Mr. Ash as an evening crossing guard at Interlochen during Band Camp.

Courtesy of Ash

Mr. Ash as an evening crossing guard at Interlochen during Band Camp.

Annabelle Ye, Staff Writer

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what hobbies/sports you do.

A: “My name is Rob Ash. I have a phenomenal family: my wife, Camille, works for Michigan State University as a financial analyst, and I have a seven year old son named Xander who goes to Thurston elementary school. I’m a composer, so I compose music for whoever commissions me to write music. My wife and I are avid skiers–we love to snow ski, downhill ski. I love movies a lot. I take in as much art as I can. It’s very easy to find me in an art museum or going to the orchestra or going to the art fair.” 


Q: What do you teach and why?

A: “I am the Director of Bands at Huron High School, and I teach band for a lot of reasons. I initially got into teaching band because I had a terrible experience in high school band. My high school band was not very good, and I was always very envious of the schools around me; that was what got me into teaching it but that’s not why I am a teacher. The beautiful thing about teaching music is that our main focus is making phenomenal people. That’s what we do. When we teach ensembles, our focus is making exemplary people: ​​teaching them how to be leaders, teaching them how to connect with their community, teaching them how to interact with each other in the best ways possible. And that is why I teach. I’m just really lucky that the medium of music allows me to focus on building phenomenal people.”


Q: Have you always been interested in teaching?

A: “I grew up in a family of teachers. My grandfather was a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent. My grandmother was a teacher, my mom and dad are teachers, my aunts and uncles are teachers, my cousins are teachers. So I was brought up in the culture, and I actually spent my early collegiate years and early professional years running away from being a teacher. Then I realized that this is something that I actually really, really want to do. The more I “ran away” from it, the more it kept catching up to me and I realized that this is who I am, this is what I’m supposed to do.”


Q: What/who inspired you to become a teacher?

A: “There’s a lot of people. Obviously, my parents were really exemplary teachers, and I saw them build their own perspective program. My mom was an art teacher, and my dad was an architectural and design teacher, and they both had state-level national recognized programs and I saw what that was and I saw the benefit of that and what excellence gives to students, so I was always kind of inspired by that. I also had a couple of really, really great teachers along the way. My sixth grade band director, who’s actually a Huron graduate, Alan Loundsbury, was amazing. That was probably my best year of band in grade school, and he always really, really inspired me and made me want to become a teacher. The other person is Professor John Nichol who was my saxophone professor. He was always a really inspiring person and I really wanted to give other people what he gave me.” 


Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: “When you’re a band director, you don’t have a lot of free time–your job is your hobby. It really is. In my free time, I try to read as much as I can, I try to write as much music as I can, and I also try to learn. I spend a lot of time studying with other conductors. So, being a band director is a lifestyle. I’m always trying to get better for my students because I have to perform along with them, which is very unique. And, I try to spend as much time with my son as possible. He is currently learning piano, so we go to piano lessons together. So, I try to spend as much time as I can with him because a lot of times I’m away from him. I want to make sure that when I have free time, he gets it.”


Q: What is one motto you will always live by?

A: “There are a bunch of them, but one that I like the most is ‘If you can, you must.’ I love that motto. If you can help, if you can change someone’s life, if you can be there for somebody, then you have to–you don’t have a choice.”


Q: What is your favorite teaching moment?

A: “People probably always say concerts, but my favorite teaching moment is when light bulbs go off. We see those ‘aha’ moments with students: when they are really struggling with something and then all of a sudden, they can just do it. Those are by far the best moments.”