Educator has an ear, life for teaching music

Bill Beachy Educator

By Laura Dreibelbis
Special To The Sun
Originally published August 1, 2001

When Bill Beachy started teaching music at Mount Hebron in 1966 at age 21, he earned $5,500 a year and the current high school was a middle school.

Thirty-five years later, what were open fields are now full of houses. And many of his previous pupils have become educators, Beachy said. Former school board member Stephen C. Bounds took seventh-grade music from Beachy, who has spent most of his career teaching elementary pupils.

"He was a good ambassador for the Howard County music program," said Bounds, who has high praise for the county's performing arts curriculum.

"I've taught most everything there is to be taught in the music line," said Beachy, 56, who has no plans to retire. Each project leads to another, said Beachy, adding, "How could I retire leaving the next idea dangling?"

A band and strings teacher at several Howard County schools during his career, he will teach at Waterloo Elementary in Columbia during the next school year.

"I like the enthusiasm of the elementary school kids ... combined with the challenge of taking someone with no musical background or experience and helping them reach that first rung of the ladder," Beachy said.

"I have always viewed my work as a quest ... a search for better ways to do the job and ways to share my findings with my colleagues. I think many of the problems in education can be best solved from the inside out rather than from the outside in ... from the inside out you have more information and motivation."

In his "quest" to improve instruction, Beachy has branched out to writing. During the past five years he has worked on a musical textbook of custom arrangements for each of the orchestral instruments. While writing the teachers' manual, he realized many of his techniques could be applied to all aspects of instruction. He is writing another book, Power in the Classroom, an outgrowth of the teaching manual.

Scientific method to teaching

Thirty-five years of experience and reading articles by a champion poker player, along with an analytical mind and an objective outlook, have provided some of his strategies for dealing with challenging classroom behavior. Approaching his job as a scientist, Beachy views teaching as a set of problems to be solved to improve instruction. "Each new discovery spurs you on to the next one," he said.

Unhappy with the music available for elementary pupils, he began writing and arranging music for that age group and started Howard Publications (, which sells original compositions and arrangements by Beachy and other composers nationwide and overseas.

Beachy's love of music began early. He knew in first grade that he wanted to be a music teacher and has mastered the trumpet, keyboard and piano. His wife, Carla, describes him as a wonderful musician who can play the piano for hours from any repertoire. He tuned pianos for 20 years and taught piano tuning for several years.

Beachy, who played in several bands over the years, recalled how his seventh-grade band earned $2 a night in Salisbury, Pa., where he and his wife were high school sweethearts, playing trumpet and clarinet respectively.

He and Mrs. Beachy (who teaches English at Mount Hebron) missed his college graduation to get married and take their honeymoon, and the romance appears to be going strong.

"I think he still looks terribly handsome on the stage," said Mrs. Beachy, describing the occasional times when the Beachys perform at family gatherings.

Sons Matthew, 28, and Mark, 25, both continue the family tradition as musicians and composers. Matthew composes and Mark is an actor, playwright and producer of musicals.

"I'm so successful in the arts because of his support," said Mark Beachy, referring to his dad's sacrifices and help when he performed in area dinner theaters during his childhood. Both father and son are teaching the same pupil, an incoming fourth-grader who takes violin at Waterloo. The child is participating in a summer Performing Arts Camp, directed by the younger Beachy.

Pleasure in simpler things

Bill Beachy's pleasure lies in life's simpler things. Pictures of his two grandchildren decorate his Ellicott City home, and spending time with his sons and grandchildren is a priority. A self-proclaimed do-it-yourselfer, Beachy enjoys working around his house and gardening with his wife. Reading and writing also occupy much of his time when he is not teaching.

When asked what makes a great teacher, Beachy's response was straightforward and basic: Caring about children and helping others are important.

One needs to be able to analyze the classroom, plan accordingly and know the subject. Add perseverance and a balanced life, he said, and the recipe is complete.


Copyright 2001, The Baltimore Sun