Musical milestones

Band teacher fulfills his purpose


Emma Main

Band teacher David Copeland, in a superhero suit, receives gifts from his senior band students at their final concert. They bought him a paddle to represent his love for the outdoors.

Former SHS graduate and band student Amy Norris walked into the band room in 2016 feeling an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. She questioned her ability to be successful on the saxophone. But band teacher David Copeland was a warm, inviting presence to her. He continuously encouraged her, and, in time, she became an excellent player and drum major.

“I discovered things about myself that I didn’t know and that is something that I have definitely taken with me,” Norris said. 

As the school year winds down, Copeland reflects on memories like these and how they’ve impacted him and his students. Now that he’s retiring, he plans to take these memories with him.

From a young age, Copeland says he naturally had a love for music. He began playing piano in second grade. And he watched his older brother play the clarinet, which made him pursue that instrument too. With this passion for a variety of instruments, Copeland found out that band was perfect for him.

Former student Amy Norris and band teacher David Copeland at the music department awards in 2019. She went on to join band in college.

“Actually, I am one of those weird people where it was all I had ever wanted to do,” Copeland said. “I remember my mom coming home and telling me after the parent-teacher conference in 8th grade that she had told the band director that I was out for his job.” 

Orchestra teacher Thomas Wright finds that Copeland’s talents are beyond belief. He says that Copeland is an incredible pianist and admires his ability to spread his passion of music contagiously.  

“Music is about sharing and that’s what Copeland does a great job of,” Wright said.

Later in life, Copeland attended Indiana University and received a bachelor’s degree in music education and a masters degree in arts and curriculum instruction from The University of Indianapolis.

During his time at IU in the ‘80s, Copeland began student teaching at SHS.

Afterward, Copeland taught at four other schools for 15 years altogether. But then, in 2003, the position for band director opened up at SHS, and Copeland knew it was meant to be.

In the time that he has been working at SHS, he has been dedicated to his job, the students and his love for creating shows, routines and music.

“I was single for 25 years, and I was married to my job and married to the band program,” Copeland said. “It’s who I am.” 

Throughout his 18 years of working at SHS, there are many accomplishments he is grateful for. He was able to double the size of the marching band, creating a sense of community. He also created a band curriculum that was more focused on the needs and growth of the SHS band and marching band.

Junior Lilly Prawat and Copeland pose together after school. Currently, she’s the drum major. (Sophie McKinney)

Junior Lily Prawat has had the opportunity to work closely with Copeland for the last three years. She says that Copeland has worked really hard on music programs and admires the way he’s allowed everyone to have an equal part in them. Prawat says it feels more like a family.

“I feel like him creating that environment where we can come together and have fun with each other has changed a lot,” Pra

wat said.

One factor driving all of these changes is Copeland’s positive attitude.

 Wright says that Copeland always offers a helping hand. When Wright has a dilemma within his orchestra, Copeland is always willing to lend his support and advice. Copeland believes that uniting the whole music department is the key to success and tries to pick them back up when they fall.

“When I think the world is falling apart in my programs, I just remember that it is okay,” Wright said, “and he helps calm the waters.”

With the admiration from his colleagues and students, Copeland feels like he’s made his mark on SHS. Looking ahead, he has a lot to look forward to. He recently got married and is building a house with his wife, Karen Copeland. Although he’s now a married man, he will always hold a special place in his heart for this position he was once married to. 

“In the grand scheme of things, I wanted to have an impact on these kids,” Copeland said. “I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted to do.”