Beginning today, relish is launching a salute to arts teachers in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. For the next six weeks, we will devote the “artist profile” portion of relish to arts educators, recognizing the important role they play in shaping students, from elementary to high school.
Relish is kicking off the salute with Forrest Munden, a legendary band teacher with more than 50 years of experience in public schools including nearly 20 years at Grimsley High School in Greensboro. He retired for a few years before returning to the classroom, this time with WS/FCS. At each stop, he has elevated the musicianship, sending several students to All-County and All-District performances.
Earlier this week, Munden began his fourth year at Walkertown Middle School, working part-time teaching sixth- and seventh-grade band.
Inducted into the N.C. Bandmasters Association in 2014, Munden has a hard time keeping to his part-time schedule, typically extending his work day by a few hours to help with the older students.
The youngest of 10 children, Munden is a 1964 graduate of Virginia State University with a bachelor of science degree in music education. He earned a master of education degree in 1979 from UNC Greensboro.
Q: What was your introduction to music?
Answer: At a young age, my mother played piano in the church, and she decided to have my sister play piano. My sister sort of resisted, and I was always hanging around. I played for churches, and I decided to play in the band (in school) and I was successful in that. I made all district band in high school and decided to make it a career. I later switched to trombone.
Q: Did you ever have aspirations to be a working musician?
Answer: I had aspirations to be symphonic musician. I’m from a small town in the country (near Virginia Beach, Va.), and when I got to college, I started reading about jazz musicians, They’re very outstanding players. But there was a big problem of drugs, and I was fearful of getting in that area to tell you the truth. In college, the head of the department stressed classical music. My jazz band experience in college taught me a lot about jazz, so when I got to public schools, the way I got into it was at Grimsley, teaching jazz band.
Q: What was it about music that made you decide you wanted to do this as your life’s work?
Answer: My mother stressed that I’d be doing something different than most people. It requires discipline, and I was guess I was mama’s boy. People were out there playing football, which I liked, and basketball. She had us in the house practicing piano, so I was doing something other people weren’t doing, and I liked it. I liked the discipline, and I decided that was for me.
Q: What do you like about working with kids?
Answer: I love kids, that’s one of the requirements of being teacher, you gotta love kids, and you have to know the subject real well.
Q: What do you like about teaching in public schools?
Answer: I like the opportunity of molding kids. I love seeing kids progress. When I taught at high school, I put my whole soul into it. Music is aesthetically beautiful. Teaching kids how to love and appreciate music the aesthetic value of it ... it’s hard to describe the feeling you have, the love you have, and it stays with me, even now. I retired from Grimsley and taught at Mineral Springs (Middle School) where there were no support programs and there were discipline problems, and I taught those kids and I found teaching those kids really gave them a foundation in life. It taught them to succeed.
Q: What would you like to people to know about the role of arts in public schools?
Answer: Everybody says music can help you do this, music can help you do that, music can help you be smarter. But music can stand on its own. Music can teach you about great beauty. I want people to know that. It doesn’t have to help with math, to help you be more disciplined. All those things are true but music is so important it can stand on its own.