story by Jordan Pupa
States, districts, and communities are starting to really see the importance of music and music advocacy. Music is a crucial component of a well-rounded education for students. According to Marlin Ketter, Director of Bands for Hartsville Middle School and Assistant Director of Bands at Hartsville High School, learning to play an instrument and being a part of a successful school band instills discipline, cooperation, self-esteem, creativity, critical thinking, leadership, and personal responsibility in students. Mr. Ketter inspires students to do things they never thought they could do. He fully invests in their future, leading them to become better individuals with creative minds and the desire to make a difference in the world.
Marlin is a graduate of Coker College and also holds a master’s degree in music education from North Greenville University. The fine art of music runs through his family. Marlin’s father was a trumpet player, his mother was a participant in the color guard, and his sister played flute and piccolo. “My family was very encouraging when I made the decision to pursue a teaching degree and I never looked back,” says Marlin. “My family believes that with God on your side, there is no obstacle that cannot be achieved. This type of support has guided me through some of the most difficult challenges, as well as some of the most rewarding successes.”
The constant support from the education department at Coker College was also influential in Marlin pursuing education. Marlin shares, “Coker is one of the best colleges for education in the southeast. Their constant strive to make sure that every student is prepared and career-ready is nothing short of outstanding. They are encouraging in the fact that they do not provide all of the answers but provide the necessary resources and processes in finding the correct answers.” While at Coker, Marlin became a proud member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the National Association of Teaching and Singers (NATS) among many other organizations. Additionally, he was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, and served as an adjudicator for the district, all county, and region events. He also had the opportunity to complete an honors project called, “Reaching Children through Music: A Middle School Choral Clinic,” designed to reach middle school children through music one step at a time. During his tenure at North Greenville University, Marlin wrote a thesis focusing on the recruitment and retention in urban middle schools.
Upon completing his education, Marlin has had the opportunity to teach at numerous schools within the area. Currently, Marlin holds the role as Director of Bands for Hartsville Middle School in addition to the Assistant Director of Bands at Hartsville High School. When it comes to his yearly schedule, there is no rest for the weary! Just to give a brief overview, band camp begins late summer. The fall is full of football games and marching band competitions, and the winter is comprised of concert and jazz band, winter ensemble, and community parades. The start of a new year is full of region band and all-state auditions. All-state clinics and concert festivals are held in the spring, then ArtSummer is in the early summer.
Many people do not recognize the behind-the-scenes work it takes to run a band program, especially a successful one. “When a student performs in an honor band clinic or gets recognize in front of their peers, there is a sense of moral success in me that keeps striving to be a better and more focused educator,” states Marlin. “I do not claim accomplishments, rather long-term success that people can distinguish that when they hear Hartsville Middle School name associated with Mr. Ketter, they know both identities are successful in their own rights.”
This summer Marlin was the director of the ArtSummer program for Darlington County School District, a three-week course where students are exposed to and participate in activities in multiple arts disciplines. This year, they had the opportunity to serve nearly 100 students in the areas of Dance, Instrumental Music, Media Arts, Theater, Visual Arts 2D & 3D, and Vocal Music.
Great teachers like Marlin who give it their all-year-round are remembered not for the knowledge they impart, but for the way they encourage and lift their students’ achievement, not just in a subject, but also in the important skills of living a fulfilling life. “When each child walks into my classroom, I want everyone to feel we can achieve anything possible. Whether it is learning the correct posture, learning a new note, or learning how to tie shoes, the learning possibilities are endless on both sides of the spectrum. I want them to know that…if better is possible than good is not enough! We must strive to be excellent at everything we do. With education, the power of one will not get the job done: but by providing, protecting, and pursing, my students will reach new heights in becoming life-long learners and career ready.”