Recently, the music department of Wheatley welcomed a new member, Mr. John Watts. The music department has been a vital part of our community, from providing concerts for the school to giving lessons to younger students. Between the different levels of band, orchestra, and chorus, many students in Wheatley engage in music at least once a day. In fact, there is an Honor Society dedicated to students who are deeply involved in music: Tri-M. With the retirement of Mrs. Luftig, a valued orchestra and Honors String Ensemble teacher, Mr. Watts was brought into the Wheatley family. I had the pleasure of interviewing him as he got accustomed to Wheatley.
Mr. Watts’ love of music was heavily influenced by his high school music teachers and his “love for performance and writing music.” He had a similar story when asked why he decided to become a teacher. “I decided to become a teacher largely because of my high school teachers. Even as a student I would tutor others, and help my teachers with sectionals and rehearsals. Teaching came naturally to me. I also became a teacher because of my involvement in musical theater for my whole life, something near and dear to my heart.” It is evident that music and teaching is what he loves to do most!
As he transitioned from his old school to Wheatley, he noted that “Wheatley has been wonderful. I feel at home, welcomed and supported by students and staff, and excited for the future!” Upon entering Wheatley, he stated that his favorite part about this new school is the students and faculty. “Both have been welcoming and kind to me during my first few months. My students have also been very flexible and willing to improvise with new methods of performance.” With this year being extremely different from the rest, especially being a music teacher where students can’t sing or play wind instruments in close proximity, Mr. Watts had to adapt his teaching style. He mentions that “the pandemic has tested the fabric of music education. The social and community aspects of music making had to be reimagined; performance and practice had to be rethought and changed. My singers have especially been affected by the COVID-19 guidelines, and in my opinion have done an outstanding job putting together their virtual winter concert!” Usually the winter concert occurs in December, where students and parents come and support Wheatley’s band, orchestra, and chorus. Unfortunately, this concert was not in person this year, but students found a way to record after months of practice.
When asked about teaching at Wheatley versus teaching at his old school, he said “my first job out of college was teaching high school music theory, and in my previous district I taught middle school, so I’d say the first difference is the grade level and maturity level of my students here at Wheatley. Additionally, I had a chorus of 200 students in my previous position, which has its pros and cons. Wheatley is a smaller school, which I love. There is a comradery among the student body and within the music department and I value the commitment Wheatley holds for the arts. My goal here is to grow the Choral program. We sing phenomenal music and have a great time. So if you have an interest in singing and/or performing, Chorus is for you!” Without a doubt, it is difficult to change your teaching ways to maintain COVID safety regulations, but nonetheless, as a band student of his, he makes class very fun!
Outside of school, Mr. Watts has many hobbies and activities that he engages in. “For fun, I enjoy performing, exercising (begrudgingly), cooking and NOT doing the dishes, travelling, going to restaurants, and of course, indulging in my reality TV shows once in a while. I also enjoy taking care of my two cats Peanut and Marmalade!” Mr. Watts enjoys all types of food too, but his preferences are Italian, American, Latin, and Asian cuisine. He also enjoys cooking and just got an InstantPot which he says is a lifesaver. Along with cooking, he enjoys playing and watching sports. He plays tennis and golf, although he claims he needs to practice more. Overall, Mr. Watts is a great music teacher and we are excited to welcome him to the Wheatley family!