SM South band director Steve Adams named Outstanding Band Director of the Year for region

Steve Adams is the Shawnee Mission South High School band director. He won the 2019 Outstanding Band Director of the Year award from the Kansas Music Educators Association’s east central district.

In junior high, Steve Adams’ band director patted him on the shoulder and told him he would make a great band director some day. That was the first time Adams thought about a career in the field.

Now, after 33 years leading the band at SM South, Adams has been named Outstanding Band Director of the Year by the Kansas Music Educators Association for the east central district. He’s also one of seven nominees for Music Educator of the Year in Kansas.

“It’s the greatest job in the world,” Adams said. “I love music and I love working with young people. They keep me young — and give me gray hair.”

Laura VanLeeuwen, Olathe West High School performing arts director and Adams’ former flute student, nominated Adams for the Outstanding Band Director of the Year award. VanLeeuwen said she nominated him because she’s always admired him as both a teacher and a person.

“He’s very humble,” Van Leeuwen said. “He’s always been in education 100 percent for the kids, not for the accolades that would come to him.”

Adams said that while he was embarrassed to have won and have been nominated, he was also appreciative. His goals as band director are student-oriented, and he said he wants his students to learn about quality performance, collaboration and leadership.

While he had mentors as a young teacher, he said he now has the opportunity to see what the younger generation is bringing to the table. This includes members of Adams’ own team, such as Assistant Band Director Paul Schapker and Indian Woods Band Director Megan Hoelscher.

“This is my team and this is my second family,” Adams said. “We have a ball teaching these kids.”

An SM South alum himself, Adams found his love for music in elementary school. The first instrument he played was a trombone, and said he would play duets with his elementary school principal, who also played the trombone.

Adams said his high school band director, Jim Cochran, was his hero. After teaching in Baldwin, Kansas for two-and-a-half years, Adams stepped in as SM South’s band director in 1986 when Cochran retired. He said he wakes up eager to go to work each day, which he credits to two parts of band: the music, and the camaraderie.

“I mean, in a band, we breathe together,” he said. “How could you be closer? There’s 130 teenagers who show up at 7 o’clock in the morning, its 40-something degrees and it’s still dark, but they’re there and they’re ready to work.”