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Matthew Chambless: Taking Pride in Travel

Apr 8, 2022

Chambless is not only a talented trumpet performer but also the director of bands at Simmons Middle School in Hoover, Alabama. His wife, Victoria Chambless, is an outstanding flute player and director of bands at Rudd Middle School in Pinson, Alabama. His identical twin brother is Michael Chambless, director of bands at Thompson Middle School in Alabaster, Alabama. They create a trifecta of music leadership in the Greater Birmingham area.

As a native of Hoover, Matthew Chambless is happy to be back home teaching at Simmons, which is part of the Hoover City Schools district. He’s in his fourth year at Simmons and eighth year of teaching, including multiple trips with his bands over the years.

“Prior to coming to Simmons, I took bands to Atlanta and Orlando Universal Studios for overnight trips,” Chambless said. “At Simmons, we normally alternate every year between taking a trip to Orlando at Universal Studios and Disney World.”

For him, including travel as part of the band experience is essential—a way to go above and beyond the classroom (or band room, or football field).

“Student travel is important because it creates meaningful experiences for students and gives them lasting memories,” Chambless said. “Most students are not going to remember every piece that they play in band class, but they will remember the experiences that they had with their friends.

“Group travel is an important part of creating that experience for students.”

Of course, the COVID pandemic has had an impact on his group travel. Student travel for his school has been on hold for the last two years, and is only returning now with certain restrictions.

“Group travel has certainly been impacted by COVID,” Chambless said. “In the spring of 2020, our trip had to be canceled, and in the spring of 2021, we—much like every school system—were not allowed to do out-of-state or overnight travel. This year, we still have restrictions in place for us to take our students on an out-of-state, overnight trip. Some of our restrictions for this year were not conducive to taking a trip to Orlando. We decided to switch gears for this year and plan an overnight trip to Atlanta so that our students still got the overnight band trip experience, but more manageable for our band families.”

For new teachers and directors who haven’t even been able to travel with their students yet, Chambless suggests leaning on each other for wisdom and resources. “Talk with other directors that have taken a trip before to see how they handle band trips. I was fortunate that in my student teaching I went on the spring band trip with the students. I learned a lot from that experience and talking with other directors that travel.

“Also, be sure to use a tour operator. They make the trip much easier on you in the planning process, and help when you are on the trip.”

For all these trips, past and present, Chambless has traveled with Kaleidoscope Adventures, saying they make it easy so he can focus on making sure his students are practiced and prepared for the adventure.

“They do a great job planning, managing payments, and helping with details once we are on the trip,” he said of Kaleidoscope. “Once I tell them the days I want to go on the trip, I never worry about anything after that. They take care of everything, and make it easy for us to travel with our students each year.”

Not to mention the fact his brother, Michael Chambless, uses Kaleidoscope Adventures, as well!

These positive feelings are mutual, as his tour consultant Debbie Baker makes clear.

“Matthew is an amazing and talented band director,” Baker said. “He works hard to provide for all his students. The Simmons Middle School Band includes approximately 285 members, which shows the amount of care that Matthew puts into the program. We met several years ago while I was still teaching and Matthew had just started. It is wonderful to watch him grow in his career. He and his wife, Victoria, are special friends who are also clients.”

Over the years, they’ve had many excellent trips, but Chambless remembers a trip in his second year teaching at Winston County High School as one of his favorites, with a slightly unusual marching band that contained not just high schoolers but 7th and 8th graders.

“Despite the challenges of having a band with that wide of gap in experience level and age, the students were doing a great job,” he said. “I decided a great next step forward for the program and the students was to take a trip to Orlando to Universal Studios. It had been 20 years since the last band trip. The look of pride the students and the parents had on their face when the students finished marching in the parade through Universal Studios was priceless. You could tell how much it meant to them to be there, and representing their community the way they did.”

That pride continues on with every new trip Chambless takes, which will surely include many more over the years, especially as student travel returns (albeit somewhat differently) this year. With the Atlanta trip on the horizon, Chambless encourages teachers to travel whenever possible.

“COVID has impacted band everywhere. We are all behind, and that is OK. Keep doing what is best for kids, and making band an enjoyable and lasting experience. If you can include group travel in that experience, I encourage you to!”

 Read more stories like this in Teach & Travel’s March/April 2022 issue.