This is the first edition of a new series on our blog that we hope you’ll find both fun and interesting! Each week we will highlight a new MFA Summer Symposium faculty member.
Welcome to the very first edition of the Camp Faculty Profile series! Today I’d like to introduce you to Taylor Watts. This year will be Taylor’s first year as an official faculty member on the BOA Drum Major Institute staff, but he is certainily no stranger to the MFA Summer Symposium! Taylor has experienced camp as a student, a SWAG team member, a Directors’ Track Assistant, and now this year he is joining the ranks of our amazing faculty. We know Taylor will be a wealth of knowledge for all of those who are planning on participating in the BOA Drum Major Institute this year. Let’s dive into getting to know Taylor, I hope you enjoy reading his responses as much as I did!
Name: Taylor Watts
Camp Division: Drum Major Institute
Home Town: Kennesaw, GA
Current Location: Marietta, GA
Favorite Things About Being A Teacher:
I love watching students grow as human beings – learning to treat others with love and respect, to develop and pursue their passions, and to grapple with the inner workings of their own person. I definitely consider myself blessed to witness (and sometimes impact) the transformation of so many people during some of the most formative years of their lives.
Why do you like to come to the MFA Summer Symposium each year:
Having experienced the camp as a student, SWAG team member, Director Track Assistant, and now staff member, one thing always holds true of my time spent at Summer Symposium – no other place in my life challenges and supports me in being the best version of myself that I can possibly be like MFA. As Jamie Weaver, one of the SWAG team coordinators, always poses to our group: “We come here every summer to be who we are truly meant to be.”
What would you say to a student who was thinking about possibly coming to camp?
Take the leap, and bring any friend you care about! Camp will challenge you and provide opportunities that most people never have the chance to experience. The lessons and relationships that you’ll find here have the potential to change you in ways that you’d never imagine – they can truly change the entire course of your life!
Most memorable moment/interaction at camp?
Despite now serving as a staff member, I think my most cherished memory at camp still stems from my time as a student. I’ll certainly never forget my last evening together standing in the auditorium with my drum major squad embracing and shedding a few tears as we reminisced on several outstandingly life-changing years spent at this camp.
Funniest thing that has happened at camp?
It may be a bit silly, but I always enjoyed participating in the “everyday camp preparation” skit that the SWAG team puts on with Norm Ruebling. The crowd always got a kick out of our ridiculous outfits and choreography that we put together to over-accentuate our points – not to mention how difficult it was to hold a static pose in our crazy get-ups without laughing myself!
Favorite spot on Ball State’s campus?
I love spending time under the bell tower, particularly in the evening. It’s such a beautiful structure.
What book are you reading right now?
Most of the books on my shelf right now have titles like The Five Love Languages and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work as I prepare for my quickly approaching wedding. Normally, however, I enjoy reading philosophy, psychology, and science articles, with the occasional high fantasy novel to spice things up.
What are you listening to right now?
Over the last few years I’ve gotten into primarily acoustic music to the tune of Nickel Creek, Fiction Family, and Mumford and Sons. I love the stories and sounds and am always impressed by the technical virtuosity of their more bluegrass-style songs.
What is ONE thing you recommend a student do at camp?
Normally I would suggest that students get outside their comfort zones and reach out to develop relationships with other campers (which they should ABSOLUTELY still do), but I have to say, as teacher as it sounds, I recommend HUGELY that all students write down every bit of wisdom that they hear during their conversations at camp (both with the staff and other students). Going back through my old binders of notes always inspires and reenergizes me, even years later – sometimes some of the truths sink in even deeper later in time.
What made you decide to be a teacher?
Truth be told, I had originally planned to go into psychology – my driving passion has always been helping people become better versions of themselves. Fortunately, a wise mentor of mine (coincidentally, a band director – go figure!) enlightened me to the opportunity for a wider spread audience over a longer period of time, and so I became a teacher!
What do you wish other people knew about the Summer Symposium?
Most camps provide students with entertaining and exciting experiences, but few other places challenge students to grow in their very being like Summer Symposium. I can certainly attest that you’ll leave camp a much stronger, bolder, and more compassionate person than you came.
What do you do when you aren’t teaching at the Summer Symposium?
During the few moments that I’m not teaching or planning to teach (few and far between!), I love spending my time pushing myself physically. Most recently, this has taken the form of obstacle course races (Spartan Races, the Tough Mudder, the Warrior Dash, etc.), skydiving, and snowboarding trips!