Music teacher Brian Parrish inspires student musicians


Maria Newton

Music teacher Brian Parrish instructs the concert choir on facial expressions. Parrish has been singing since his childhood. “Voice is my primary instrument, always has been, but I’m also a jazz pianist—I can manage my way around that pretty well,” Parrish said.

Inspired by his own instructors, music teacher Brian Parrish uses his charisma and passion for music to influence all types of young musicians.

Although no one in his immediate family is a musician by trade, Parrish has always been surrounded by music.

“My family was doing music all through my upbringing,” Parrish said. “My grandpa played the piano, and we were always singing around the piano with him.”

However, middle school is when music really became a focus for Parrish. Rather than just being a family pastime, music started to become a legitimate career option.

“I had a teacher [in middle school] who talked about taking things seriously, and from then on it was kind of my thing,” Parrish said.

Middle school was also when Parrish discovered beatboxing. It was introduced to him by a friend who had seen a Youtube video. From then on, Parrish was hooked.

“I wasn’t good for a long time, I was just the annoying kid [beatboxing],” Parrish said. “But that’s true with anything; you’re never good when you start.”

Parrish believes that students can learn new things as long as they are given the chance and choose to dedicate the time. This is why when Parrish needed some jazz instrument players for his jazz choir, he began to teach them on his own time.

“A lot of the jazz music needs drums, bass, guitar, piano and sometimes horns,” Parrish said. “Before school I started teaching a few kids–6:30 a.m., twice a week.”

When Parrish noticed that the community responded well to the jazz musicians, he decided to make it an actual class.]

Voice is my primary instrument, [it] always has been.”

— Brian Parrish

“[It is the] third year of [jazz band] being an actual class, and the second year of it being a class I’m actually paid to teach, and having that legitimacy,” Parrish said.

Junior Noah Wright, a trumpet player in the jazz band, joined the class last year with little knowledge about jazz.

“I went into the class not really knowing much about jazz and especially things like improvising,” Wright said. “He’s taught me about the genre and how to play it.”

When it comes to getting kids excited about music, Wright describes Parrish as a charismatic and capable teacher.

“He doesn’t play brass, like a trumpet, so when he’s trying to teach us our parts, he’ll sing it really loud how he wants it to sound,” Wright said. “He gets up and does all these crazy movements in the room. It’s pretty entertaining, and it works.”

Other than jazz choir, Parrish is teaches boys chamber choir and chorus.

“Voice is my primary instrument, [it] always has been,” Parrish said.

The jazz choir has been around for many years, but has only been invited to prestigious events as of recent.

“The jazz choir has been invited to perform at the [2013] Missouri Music Educator’s Conference,” Parrish said. “Only one choir from the state is invited.”

The jazz choir was also invited to the 2018 New York Voices Vocal Jazz Festival this April, which is even more selective.

“It is one of the biggest jazz festivals,” Parrish said. “Only six college choirs and six high school choirs [are invited] from the nation.”

I wasn’t good for a long time, I was just the annoying kid [beatboxing]. But that’s true with anything; you’re never good when you start.”

— Brian Parrish

Senior and jazz choir member Katia Frederick said Parrish sat the jazz choir down before their coffee house performance last March and told them how they could inspire the audience to change the world just from the way they sing.   

“He was encouraging us to encourage others,” Frederick said. “You can basically ask him anything about music—or even something that isn’t about music—and he’ll just have a conversation with you.”

In addition to directing multiple choirs and the jazz band, Parrish teaches AP music theory. However, despite the ‘AP’ title, the course had never been a real AP class, in that there was no test at the end of the course until Parrish took initiative. 

“No one took the time to go to the actual College Board and register it. I submitted the paperwork and now it’s an actual AP course for the first time this year,” Parrish said. “That is really the class that is going to benefit kids the most in terms of college.”

Passionate teachers throughout Parrish’s life led him down his current career path. He wanted to do music all the time, and while in college, he never wavered from his initial plan to become a teacher.

“I took a leap—I thought teaching was what I wanted to do,” Parrish said. “[I] ended up loving it. I love to teach.”