Plan B has become a golden opportunity for band director Nicole Decker, who will be leaving the Madison Central School District at the end of the year.
Decker, who joined the Madison staff in September 2017, has accepted the position of head band director at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls. As a woman in a male-dominated field, she considers the new job "a step in the right direction for my career."
However, she also considers the move to be Plan B, because Plan A had been for her and her husband Jordan to live and work in Madison. However, Jordan works in Sioux Falls and has been commuting since they married. Because they are expecting their second child, living and working in the same community seemed wise to the couple.
Decker has found her position in Madison to be rewarding on several levels. First, she has seen the band grow from 55 members to 88.
"I've really been proud of myself about that growth," she said. "My retention has been really good. Once they're in high school band, I don't lose them."
In addition, she's helped to rebuild the quality of the band. In the past, before the music staff was cut, the Madison school district had a band that did well at competitions and even performed in the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif.
After an early competition, Decker was approached by a well-respected judge whose words encouraged her.
"It's really nice to hear the Madison band sound the way it did today," he told her. "It's been a while."
During her tenure at Madison High School, the marching band moved up not only in ratings at competition but also in competition class, which is based on band size. The band has been recognized for spirit and sportsmanship more than once at the annual marching band competition in Orange City, Iowa.
"In the end, that's the purpose of what we do. It's not just the music that's important. I want them to be good people," Decker said.
She works to help her students learn to be disciplined, well-behaved, kind, supportive of others and good problem solvers.
Other indicators of improvement include having both middle school and high school students selected for All-State Band and winning superior ratings at solo, ensemble and large group competitions.
Decker is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Madison Central School District.
"Madison was the first place that welcomed me and who I was," she said. "I think the community had high expectations, but the support they gave me was phenomenal. This community cares about this program."
However, since she was the band director for both middle school and high school bands, she did feel stretched a little thin at times.
"It is a very big job for one person. It can be daunting at times and overwhelming," Decker indicated.
She is looking forward to going to Roosevelt, where she will be working with only the high school band and will have an assistant as well.