The Joy of Music

The music programs at 92129’s two middle schools – Mesa Verde (MVMS) and Black Mountain (BMMS) – are very much a part of the fabric of the school community. Sixth through eighth grade students have the unique opportunity to develop musical and life skills through band and orchestra classes, as well as various school and public performances. Join us as we speak with music directors Jay Posteraro, Patti Puckett, Doug Hargis, and Pamela Miller to find out more.

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Q&A with Jay Posteraro, MVMS Band Director
Sixth Through Eighth Grade Bands, Select Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble

cover_10What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at Mesa Verde?
I have been a teacher for 23 years, all of them at Mesa Verde Middle School! I am so lucky to be in this teaching position and appreciate everything it has brought to my life. In addition, I play trumpet throughout San Diego, most notably with a group called The Pacific Sound Brass Quintet.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
It is all about the relationships made over the course of time. I love giving nicknames to my students to help me learn their names. Also, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing a student come in as a new sixth grade band student and then leave as a promoted eighth grade band student.

How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
I am lucky to teach in an area where music is appreciated and is considered important to the fabric of our school. Over the years, as technology has continued to evolve, it can be a challenge to get students to understand the value of hard work. With so many answers available at a touch of a button, learning an instrument can be a tough discipline for students and parents to appreciate. You absolutely have to practice in order to get better.

How many performances do you put on a year?
Lots! Between all of the groups, Mesa Verde bands perform in some capacity at least 15 to 20 times during the course of the year.

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Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at MVMS?
I could write a novel in this section. I will keep it simple – the best memories are the little things which happen every day in class, from the stories kids tell us, to the jokes we tell to the different band trips. All are unique and bring a smile to my face. If I had to pick one memory, it would be when our select ensemble went to the Heritage Festival of Gold in Chicago 2011. We performed in Symphony Hall and earned the distinction of being the first middle school group in the 30-year history of the festival to win. We had the opportunity to perform an encore concert in the evening. It was truly a memorable experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am so appreciative of the opportunity Mesa Verde Middle School has given to me. I have met so many wonderful families, teachers, staff, and administrators over the years. It is an absolute joy to come to “work” every day and know it will be a great day, regardless as to what may be happening in the world. There is no greater joy than the joy of music.

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Jay Posteraro | At-A-Glance

Community: Scripps Ranch
Education: Bachelor of Music, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam; Master of Music, University of Cincinnati
Family: Wife – Lisa; Daughter – Rachel
Hobbies and Interests: Enjoy family time, especially when Rachel comes home from college. I enjoy all sports, play softball one night a week and bowl on Friday nights. I love roller coasters and Prime Time TV Shows!


Q&A with Patti Puckett, MVMS Orchestra Director
Sixth Grade Intermediate and Seventh and Eighth Grade Advanced Orchestras

cover_11What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at Mesa Verde?
I have been teaching in the Poway Unified School District since 1994. I have been at Mesa Verde for the past 13 years. I also teach similar orchestra classes at Meadowbrook Middle School and travel to both schools daily.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
The students. I enjoy watching my students grow in their musical and life skills during their middle school years. One of the best parts is having the same students from sixth through eighth grade. It is wonderful to build rapport with the students over the years. It is always great when they come back and visit after they go on to high school and beyond.

How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
The orchestra program in the Poway District in general has grown tremendously over the past decade. I have seen my classes double in size since arriving at Mesa Verde. I have also seen a boost in numbers of the viola, cello, and string bass players. Cello is especially popular this year.

How many performances do you put on a year?
The sixth grade orchestra performs at our winter and spring concerts. The advanced orchestra performs at other venues such as festivals and recruiting concerts, along with the two MVMS orchestra concerts.

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Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at MVMS?
There are so many wonderful memories, especially with my fellow music teachers and assistants. I enjoy sharing stories with students and sometimes we laugh so hard we cry. One experience I remember was when I conducted a piece and my baton flew out of my hand and hit my first chair cellist.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am blessed to have such wonderful students, fellow teachers, and administration to work with daily. I enjoy coming to school and sharing the joy of music with others.

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Patti Puckett | At-A-Glance

Community: Rancho Bernardo
Education: BA in Music, College of St. Benedict; MA in Education, National University
Family: Husband – Phillip; Sons – Alexander Holland and Andrew Puckett
Hobbies and Interests: Riding and showing my Quarter Horses, real estate, bowling, travel


Upcoming Performances at MVMS

Dec. 12
Winter Orchestra Concert
6:30 p.m.

Dec. 13
6th Grade Bands and Jazz Groups
6 p.m.

Dec. 14
7th and 8th Grade Bands and Select Ensemble
6 p.m.


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Q&A with Doug Hargis, BMMS Band Director
Sixth Grade, Concert, and Advanced Bands

cover_9What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at Black Mountain?
When I think about it, it’s hard for me to believe but this is my 41st year teaching music! After many rewarding years teaching at Santa Monica High School, I moved to the Poway Unified School District in 1990. I’ve been teaching at BMMS for 15 years.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
Watching young musicians learn that in a band, success comes from collaboration and being sensitive to the other members of the group (some pretty important life skills as well). Also, I never get tired of seeing that initial spark of music in a young person and watching as it burns brighter and brighter each year. I am still moved by hearing young people make music.

How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
I was so fortunate that when I came to BMMS it already had an outstanding band program. Since the early days of the Poway Unified District, the families of the students in this district have always made music in the schools a priority. Additionally, the band teachers that preceded me developed and maintained a strong program. So I’m happy to say that I believe I have been able to continue the outstanding traditions of the program that have been in place for decades.

How many performances do you put on a year?
We have an active performance calendar. Of course we have traditional evening concerts in the winter and spring but throughout the year we also have Coffee Concerts. For Coffee Concerts, parents come to their child’s band class during the school day and sit next to them as they perform. Our seventh and eighth grade students perform at Disneyland or California Adventure every year. Additionally, our eighth graders have performances with the high school bands that they will be attending. Twice a year, our band, orchestra, and chorus perform in assemblies for the entire school.

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Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at BMMS?
I realize it sounds like a cliché, but I have too many memories of special performances to list them all here. Ultimately, the best memories I have are of watching my students grow up during their three years in my classroom. I love getting to see what special young adults (and musicians) they are becoming.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
BMMS is a special place. The students, parents, teachers, staff, administration, and community all contribute to create an environment that allows students to feel like they belong and feel safe. This is a great place to make music!


Doug Hargis | At-A-Glance

Community: Carmel Valley
Education: Bachelor’s, CSU Long Beach; Master’s, Southern Oregon University
Family: Wife – Allison; Son – Jack; Daughter – Annie
Hobbies  and Interests: Music, baseball, and Miles Davis


Q&A with Pamela Miller, BMMS Orchestra Director
Sixth Grade, Intermediate, and Advanced Orchestras

cover_14What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at Black Mountain?
I have taught at Black Mountain for the past four years. In the time I graduated in 2009 until I started teaching at Black Mountain, I taught at several middle and high schools around San Diego, and then taught winds and percussion through the San Diego Youth Symphony and their Opus Project in Chula Vista. I also created my own community music program in 2012, which is called Miller Music Academy.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
I definitely enjoy the kids the most. I love teaching them to play a large variety of types of music. I also love knowing that they are gaining a lifetime appreciation of music, and that I am giving them the musical tools to succeed in music for the rest of their lives. They really take music seriously here and want to be good musicians of excellent character. They also care about creating a community feel in orchestra, and even suggested that we create an Orchestra Leadership Council to make sure kids are feeling connected to each other in orchestra. Lastly, I love the huge group performances we’ve been able to do combining orchestra groups together, and sometimes adding winds and percussion for a very cool effect.

How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
When I got here in 2014, Black Mountain’s program was chronically stuck at two orchestra classes, with approximately 120 students involved each year. We had one class for incoming sixth graders, and one for everyone else. In 2016, I increased the program with recruitment and retention strategies so that we had 90 incoming sixth graders and 85 students who stayed. Last year, using the same strategies, I increased our incoming sixth grade class to around 115 and kept 130 additional students from prior years. So in the past two years, the program has doubled in size. I’m very proud of our evolution, and it wouldn’t have been possible without support from parents and our school administrators!

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How many performances do you put on a year?
We have two formal concerts for the BMMS orchestra program each year, two school-wide music program assemblies, two during school concerts where parents come to class during the school day, performances at school-wide events and parent nights, community events like Fiesta de los Peñasquitos, and we also do either a performance or recording workshop once a year at Disneyland in Anaheim. We also perform at the Poway Unified Band and Orchestra Festival each year.

Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at BMMS?
My favorite memory is from last year. I arranged four pop songs from the radio for the orchestra, winds, and percussion for our spring music assembly. Normally the kids in the bleachers like hearing music and taking a break from their normal school day, but when they heard that song they got so excited. They were clapping, singing along, and the energy was just crazy. This is really exciting, because it just goes to show that performances by instrumental music ensembles like band and orchestra can be enjoyed by everyone.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The last thing to share is just that I’d like to start a program that funds private lesson costs for students who can’t afford them. If more kids had access to private lessons, they would have more opportunities available to them and would really benefit.


Pamela Miller | At-A-Glance

Community: San Diego, CA
Education: Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Euphonium Performance, University of Arizona; Working on master’s in conducting at SDSU
Hobbies and Interests: Watching documentaries, relaxing outdoors, farmers markets, cooking, cats,
being with close friends and family, travelling


Upcoming Performances at BMMS

Dec. 6
6th Grade Bands
6:30 p.m.

Dec. 7
Concert and Advanced Bands
6:30 p.m.

Dec. 18
Orchestra Winter Showcase
Email pmiller@powayusd.com for more information and tickets