4 Directors, 4 Years

The JD Music program experiences yet another shift in leadership, marking the 4th band director in 4 years.


JDCHS Fine Arts Department

Former Band Director from 2018-2019, Jed Blodgett, jamming out on the drums.


First dynamic duo Jed Blodgett and Fiona McGowan, then Bradley Sampson, then the era of John VanWagoner, and lastly Jared Herald marks the 4th and most recent passing of Band Director to grace the Music hall.

The past four years have been a constant state of change as JD music experiences new initiatives and dying programs. Director and student alike reflect on how these shifts have impacted their participation and enthusiasm within JD’s Music Department and on the state the band has been left in after being tossed from teacher to teacher.

Students masterfully play during Juan Diego’s High School Holy Week video. (Juan Diego Catholic High School )

Former band director and now current Choir director John VanWagoner has found his time transitioning and teaching at Juan Diego “super fun and worthwhile,” as he also “finds the administration, staff, and students fantastic as they have really made my time here amazing.” One of his favorite aspects of teaching here has been “doing videos for the various liturgical seasons.” 

VanWagoner preceded second-era band director Bradley Sampson who was the last director to take Juan Diego Marching Band to the Bands of America competition in St. George, Utah. Since then, the Marching Band has glimpsed its deathbed as VanWagoner struggled to keep the failing band alive. 

Still, VanWagoner has made some impactful changes, one is changing the sound and genre of music performed. 

We have changed the flavor of the music from traditional-sounding music to more contemporary gospel and blues genre.  I end up arranging and composing many of the songs which can be time-consuming but worth it.” 

The Music Department then dabbled in Indoor drumline and again revived the Marching Band with fourth-era Band Director Jared Herald. Yet, Juan Diego’s Marching Band/music department is still seeing hard times as VanWagoner recounts the biggest, everlasting issue plaguing the Music Department.

It’s always the same, we need more students in our classes. We are experiencing a drought of our own in most fine arts classes due to the JD student population.” 

The music department has struggled with attendance for the past few years, which VanWagoner has attempted to remedy through a variety of ways. 

“As usual, I will be out in the halls asking people to join the choir. I know there is a ton of hidden talent in the school so my goal is to encourage all students to take a music class. It’s more fun than people may think.”

Students participating in the band program have arguably been the most affected by the constantly changing climate of the Juan Diego Music Department. Senior Kelsey Poulsen, who has been a part of the band program and in the Marching Band since her freshman year, reflects on her time and on how each director affected her experience.

All teachers are working together to offer the students the best unified, collaborative music education possible.

— John VanWagoner

“It has been kinda crazy being in a program that is constantly changing,” States Poulsen, “but change really did need to happen if the music department was going to grow and become better, and most of the directors just used what they were given.”  

Indeed, the most lively era of the band program came with the class of 2018-2019 and directors McGowan, Blodgett, and Sampson. Since then, the band program has struggled most prominently with participation and attendance.

VanWagoner and Juan Diego leaders have not yet given up hope, though. All teachers are working together to offer the students the best unified, collaborative music education possible. We want our programs to succeed and the only way we can truly do that is to have the same goals for our programs.”