Altadeña Middle School's Will Norris has been teaching aspiring band teachers for as long as he can remember.
Norris continues to work with universities around Arizona to provide undergraduates with opportunities in student teaching.
"When one finishes his student teaching or graduates, (the universities) send me another," Norris said. "The universities look for strong programs and a strong musical education faculty to send their students. I am happy to help."
For his effort, Norris recently was awarded the ASU Mentor Teacher of the Year.
"It's a great honor," he said.
Norris, 59, said he can tell when a student has been "bitten by the music or band bug." When a student teacher comes to Altadeña, he has them observe for a couple of days. Then it is their turn to take over.
"Some students, you just know it's a part of their blood, and they are going to follow it," Norris said. "I watch them and see what their weaknesses are and what their strengths are, and I help however I can."
Fine arts is an area where schools tend to make cuts in funding. But Norris said the community recognizes how strong the band programs in the area are, and he hopes residents will continue to show their support.
"It's always worrisome," he said. "You never know what decisions are going to be made. But it is apparent the parents want these programs in place."
Norris became Altadeña's band director more than 16 years ago. Before that he worked in the Mesa School District for eight years.
The Phoenix-native, who has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for more than 20 years, was commander of the 108th Army Band of the National Guard before retiring in 2003.
"It was real hard work, but I was very proud to serve my country as a commander," he said. "They say it's a part-time job, but it feels like full time."