Even if you have never heard of Howard Crawford, he in one way or another has probably affected you. He is the head of instrumental music and the deputy chair of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) at South Pasadena High School.
Crawford has been the brain behind all of the spring and fall music concerts, conducting the Concert, Symphonic, Jazz Band and Orchestra. He has also conducted the music for the SPHS musical and is the mastermind behind the Marching Band’s Field Show, whose time and dedication to his students is unquestioned.
Jason Kang, current Drum Major stated, “Mr. Crawford is very dedicated and puts a lot of weight on his shoulders to carry out the instrumental music program in SPHS.” Ching-Hua Chang, treasurer of the Music Boosters, says, “Mr. Crawford makes music happen in South Pasadena with very limited resources.” Katie Lam, president of band, says, “Mr. Crawford is incredibly dedicated both to his students and to his work, while maintaining a close relationship to his students, giving them the motivation to learn and perform.”
He has won various awards for his work, including Teacher of the Year. When not conducting in the classroom, you will find Crawford in his small office in the South Pasadena High School band room. The already tiny space feels even smaller, as various mounds of papers cover every visible space. “This,” Crawford says, gesturing towards the stacks, “really wears me out.” It’s the most stressful part of the job. But according to the director, the job overall is anything but. It’s hard to get out of bed, but the moment he’s out, Crawford is ready to tackle the day’s problems. “Let’s go!” he says with ample enthusiasm. “It’s fun, it’s not work. As long as I’m out there,” he says, gesturing to the band room, “I’m fine.”
Oddly enough, Crawford never intended to become a teacher but he always knew he wanted to incorporate music in his professional life. His love for the arts originated from his parents who constantly played and bought records; one common genre played was jazz. Crawford would go on to receive his bachelor’s degree in Flute and Clarinet and a graduate degree in Music Studies at Howard University. After receiving his graduate degree, he came to California for vacation with his best friend. He liked it so much that he packed up his things and moved to the Golden State, permanently. Crawford then held a series of freelance traveling jobs including a six-week tour of Central America as part of a band. The group would play at various venues and would travel from place to place on a little plane only able to carry six people. However, the constant plane rides were nerve racking. Crawford also worked for six months on a cruise ship, which was not as enjoyable as it sounds. Crawford’s roommate, one night, got cabin fever. Understandably, after his six months were up, Crawford was ready to settle down.
Looking for something more grounded, Crawford responded to a job announcement sent out by the South Pasadena High School. Within half an hour, he received a response and a request for an interview. After the second interview, he was offered and took the job. “Only for a few years,” he thought at the time. It has been 27 years since that day.
In all that time, there are a few memories that really stick out in his mind. One such event, Crawford reminisces, was the first time the marching band ever received a first place award. It was in the mid 90s and the seventeen-member band was ecstatic. The students rushed out of the stands, accidentally breaking the trophy. Everyone was happy. “I’ll never forget that.”
Any plans for retirement? “I’m not going to stay here forever. I’ll put it that way.” Crawford doesn’t want to be a teacher forever. He’d like to become a professor, or perhaps travel again. He still has life to live and wants get out into the world while he still can, before he’s “too old.” But if you’re a middle schooler fearful that you won’t have Crawford as a teacher, don’t worry. This excellent musician and instructor isn’t going anywhere yet. “It won’t be anytime soon,” he said.