Milas Yoes, Instrumental Music Faculty member and bandleader extraordinaire, is a fixture at Phoenix College. For more than 19 years, Yoes taught music history and ensemble music. In May 2018, Yoes will retire from Phoenix College (PC) to pursue other creative avenues.
Though he taught as an adjunct music teacher at both Phoenix College and Chandler-Gilbert Community Colleges in the 1980s, it wasn’t until more than a decade later that he officially became full-time faculty at PC.
Yoes joined the Phoenix College Music faculty in 1999 as both the lead instrumental music instructor and as a coordinator of the music department, which was changing at the time. He credits now-retired faculty members, Marian Tadano, chemistry faculty, and Luis Baiz, fine arts faculty, with guiding him through his formative early years at the college. They were always there to answer questions and give support.
During his tenure at PC, Yoes taught Music & Cultures, Jazz History, Introduction to Music Theory, and built the course, World Music. He was also the conductor for six PC ensembles: PC Jazz Combo, PC Jazz Orchestra, Superstition Jazz Orchestra, PC Percussion Ensemble, PC Community Orchestra, and Phoenix Concert Band.
Yoes helped to shape PC’s Music Department. He helped built the music team with the hires of both Dr. Kenny Miller (choral/vocal studies) and Dr. Karl Schindler (electronic music studies). He jokes that his most significant accomplishments were hiring a full-time administrative assistant and lobbying for a copy machine for music students. He is proud that he was able to pass the torch of running the arts department to Karl Schindler, under whom, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, has been flourishing.
The vibe in the music department has always been positive. It’s a comfortable place to come to class and a nurturing environment [for students]. – Milas Yoes
Yoes fondly remembers many of his students but has a special place in his heart for one young man who passed away from leukemia while still at PC. Only 19 years old, he was the first generation in his family to go to college, was passionate about jazz, and played a “mean” bass guitar. His best friend was a saxophone player in the same band. When he passed away, Yoes invited his mother to a Sessions Hall concert in his honor, played by the student jazz ensemble/orchestra. The young student’s favorite jazz piece, Contemplation, was given a special arrangement with a dedicated saxophone solo. This arrangement showcased the young student’s best friend and offered him a way to pay tribute to his bandmate in a meaningful way. Yoes remembers how passionately the band played that night.
They played their hearts out that night. My students could understand that moments like these are why we are musicians. It’s why we do what we do. – Milas Yoes
Student Success Stories
Yoes is very proud that many of his former students have gone on to teach band in the Valley Phoenix area, including Tracy Meldrum, a former trumpet major, and now the Director of Bands at Verrado High School.
He has also seen former students come back to play in the community and jazz orchestras. He recalls one student from his adjunct days, Darrin Permenter, who both played in PC’s band as a trumpet player and was a star linebacker for Glendale Community College’s national championship football team. Three years ago (i.e., 2015), Permenter showed up to play in the PC Jazz Orchestra and is still there today.
During his two decades at PC, Yoes learned from both his students and his fellow music faculty. He is also very appreciative of the professional development that he was able to pursue while a faculty member at PC. He spent a week each summer for ten years at the Stanford Jazz Institute.
It was one of the most significant benefits. I was able to work with jazz masters and bring that knowledge back to my students. When you teach for as long as I did, it is easy to go stale. If you let it, teaching can become secondary to your job. Professional growth through the Stanford Jazz Institute kept me on my toes and made me a better teacher. – Milas Yoes
Advice to Future Music Faculty
Now that he is officially retired, Yoes is currently working on publishing a book for music teachers new to jazz. His advice to students and alumni thinking of pursuing a career in music education is:
- Become the finest musician you can be.
- Find the best educators that are successful at what you want to do – help them and spend time with them.
- Dedicate yourself to the betterment of others. As an educator and performer, you must have a service mindset. Always ask yourself “What is best for my students – what do they need?”
Finally, Yoes speaks passionately about teaching music at the community college. The bulk of a music educator’s students are young musicians or students who wish to increase their skills. However, at the community college level, Yoes stresses that it is equally important to understand the needs of older musicians who may be coming back to college at the end of their careers. While the overall purpose of teaching music to younger musicians is to help them get better in their art, the reverse is true for the older generation.
Some students come back in their later years to play in the community college band. It’s important to understand that this might be the last band someone may be involved in, and you will be their last director. In your time as a professor, you may watch a great musician and singer fall to Alzheimer’s disease. In one particular instance, an older gentleman sat still during his final concert and never played a note. As a music teacher at a community college, ask yourself ‘how do you measure the joy of an elderly player playing in a band with music he loves?’ –Milas Yoes
Teaching music in the community is Yoes’ true passion. While finishing his book, he has plans to continue to enrich the performance and educational opportunities of high school students and the young at heart by consulting with local organizations and institutions, starting new jazz bands, and enjoying life as a traveling musician.