Staff Profile: Ms. Tycast
Feb 25, 2022
Ms. Nora Tycast, band, is the newest edition to the HHS music program. Tycast worked at Spring Lake Park High School for 16 years, making considerable improvements to their band program, before returning to HHS. While at Spring Lake Park, she was a finalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award in 2020.
One of Tycast’s main priorities has been to diversify the repertoire of high school bands. By collaborating with Composer Diversity Database and ColourFULL Music, Tycast has contributed to overall ease of accessibility to more minor underrepresented composers.
Tycast believes that representation through curricular music is vital for HHS students.
“If you can see it, you can be it,” Tycast said. “If we can see people in positions of innovation and creation that look like us and look different from us, then we have more propensity to be in and support a space depending on who’s there. So making sure our art forms are directly reflective of that is really important.”
Unlike former band directors, Tycast has been refreshingly selecting classical and contemporary music.
She works closely with, And We Were Heard, an entrepreneurial publisher. They have helped her keep tabs on what’s new to transfer into the classroom.
Anna Hepperlen, junior, has felt this notable shift between now and past years.
“This experience and last year’s experience in band have been worlds apart,” Hepperlen said. “Ms. Tycast has made a big effort in helping us listen to others. My favorite piece that we’ve played so far has been Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. It’s a very fast and technical piece. It can be really frustrating when you miss your entrance or play the wrong notes, but when it all comes together it sounds amazing.”
From organizing zoom calls with composers or having guest musicians for the Pop’s concert, Tycast is changing what high school band class looks like.
This position at HHS has been a longtime dream for Tycast. Finally, after over a decade of teaching outside her district, moving to HHS felt right.
“This is my community; this is the place that I chose to raise my children… So I was really excited to teach in the place where I live,” Tycast said. “People are really valued when they work here, and it’s nice to feel wanted.”
Tycast has big plans for the band program, specifically related to class diversity carried through secondary school.
“I would like to see much more of our student population represented within our band program,” Tycast said. “There’s a huge diversity of students that take band in 5th and 6th grade, and that does not come up to the high school. If we’re going to be innovators and creators in music-making in the classroom, then we need to look like our general student body.”
With enrollment in music classes having depleted significantly since online school, the question of how to increase class sizes is a significant concern.
“There need to be some places where students can come back to band, or where kids who have never taken band can enter in at the high school level along with their peers,” Tycast said. “Students should feel welcome to come back.”
A mere 29 students are enrolled in the Concert Band right now. This influx of dropping out, according to Tycast, was likely due to online music classes being “so painful.”
“It didn’t feel good trying to make music in your basement while your parents are both on conference calls upstairs and you have two other kids working from home…it’s just challenging,” Tycast said.
So many kids lost the joy in music-making, and Tycast believes she can bring them back.
She also thinks things like Pop’s, Lake Conference band festivals, and possible touring can create more excitement around band.
Allowing students to join band at any point will This inclusivity will be the push HHS needs towards higher participation.
Tycast is raising teenagers of her own, which has given her a vital perspective when teaching middle and high school students during these difficult times.
“I am a better teacher because I’ve watched my kids make music in the pandemic,” Tycast said. “I know how hard sometimes just getting up is. The school was a source of joy and friendship, and intrigue. But then, all of a sudden, it got to be such a drag. And so what can I do to build that back daily.”
Tycast says she tries to notice what her students need outside of band parameters.
“Sometimes it’s not for me to rehearse measures 10-15 seven times; sometimes it’s just to keep going and find joyful music and provide an opportunity to be creative.”
Tycast has also utilized her knowledge of composers in class.
“It makes us collectively better musicians when we know where people are coming from. So when I’ve taken the time to learn about composers or to get to know them, or just send them a brief email, I’ve always come back 100 times better in terms of my teaching and my ability to communicate.”
Tycast highlighted Cait Nishimura in the band’s Fall concert. Many of her songs include themes of mental health. This knowledge provides essential context when mastering such a passionate piece of music.
HHS’s Wind Symphony had a concert with the Concordia College’s band on Feb 9, exemplifying yet again Tycast’s utilization of connections within the band world to enrich her students.