Name: Paul J. Pitts
Organization: Boston Latin School
Title: Director of Fine Arts
Music Genre: Band, Jazz, Orchestra and Vocal
Years in the field: 38
What do you do at Boston Latin?
I organize and coordinate a large arts department consisting of 1,100 music students, 900 visual art students, and 300 drama students. We have 11 full time arts faculty as well an additional eight adjunct faculty. I also conduct the Wind Ensemble, the Symphonic Band, the Big Band, and the Dues Band.
Why do you do what you do?
For a few reasons. I really love music, all kinds, some more than others but it is all really cool. The idea is if you love what you do most days it is not like work but more like a great way to spend a day. The groups that I teach are really quite good and we are able to play music that I find quite challenging to conduct and it is awesome to get to study and conduct this great music. Last year we played lots of Bernstein’s music, it was great. Great music and the students played it really well, a joy to work on with my groups. In jazz band we do a lot of Mingus and Ellington and other more contemporary charts but the charts that they are able to play has really gotten better every year so it is great to work on this music at such a high level. The other reason I do it is because I really like kids, I guess it keeps me young, talking to young people, I tend to think about what they are thinking about instead of my feet hurt and I need to sit down.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
The music, the passion for the music. I spend a lot of time searching for music, at times it can be tough but I have been able to find music that is great, and once the students get to a certain level that can appreciate great music as well.
What challenges you in this work?
The daily grind is demanding, it is relentless, there is always something to do. So many students, events, festivals, auditions, concerts, etc etc. I am concerned for younger teachers, it seems like they keep asking for more and more from teachers that is not related to student instruction, but things that require more and more time. It seems to be getting even tougher to do a great job teaching with all of the non-teaching requirements.
What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
That is sort of difficult to answer, they seem to enjoy the concerts, the auditorium is pretty well packed for most all of our major concert throughout the year. I get many positive comments from alumni when we perform for them several times throughout the year. I know the students enjoy it otherwise they would not take the elective classes.
Whose work in the Creative Youth Development field do you admire and why?
Some band directors in Massachusetts who have been role models for me and had outstanding programs. Paul Alberta from Norwood, Steve Massey from Foxboro, Jeff Leonard from Lexington and Vinney Macrina from Brockton. They have all had fantastic programs for many years, unfortunately all but one is retired but I still use them for questions about musical and administrative details.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Jazz all the time, in the last two years I have become a big fan of Dudamel in LA I love the music he selects, lots of classical music from Latin America that is so rhythmic and groove oriented. I always love to go to the Boston Symphony when I can, it is such a fantastic orchestra and a beautiful hall. Sixties rock and roll, I saw Led Zepplin live at the garden back in ’72 when I was 15 and it blew me away, they were incredible. I saw the Eagles last summer and they were also great.
What are you currently reading?
Mostly magazine articles, the last book I finished was Miles Davis’ autobiography. I am reading Mingus’ now, Beneath the Underdog. A friend gave me John Coltrane’s book but I have not started it yet.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Mistakes in music, learn from mine.