Stephen Winters (’94) and Justin Stanton (’07): Missouri high school band directors
June 3, 2009
As director and assistant director of bands at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High School, Stephen Winters and Justin Stanton have the opportunity to work together while pursuing their love for teaching and music. Both men graduated from Evangel University with a degree in Music Education, agreeing that their experience at Evangel impacted their lives and set the foundation for their careers in music at Poplar Bluff High School.
Stephen Winters graduated magna cum laude from Evangel University in 1994, completing a degree in Music Education. “I always knew that I wanted to attend a Christian college, and Evangel was really the only college I seriously considered,” Stephen said.
While a student at Evangel, he was a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a music honor society. He performed in the university band, orchestra and chorus as well as the brass ensemble and concert and pep bands. His favorite memory at Evangel was the month-long concert band tour in Europe. “During the tour, we played in nine different countries and were exposed to many different cultures. The best part was touring with my fellow band members and drawing closer to each one of them. I also enjoyed seeing how Mr. Shows ran the tour and church services that we played for — he has such a heart for ministry.”
However, it wasn’t just the performances or relationships that impacted him. “Evangel impacted my life spiritually the most,” Stephen said. “During my four years at Evangel, I was able to see a love for the Lord in my teachers that would not have been evident at other universities. Attending chapel services and Spiritual Emphasis Weeks also helped to increase my walk with the Lord.”
After attending Evangel, Stephen went on to pursue his Master of Music in conducting from Missouri State University. He helped teach the wind symphony and concert, marching and studio jazz bands there as part of his graduate assistantship.
Stephen met his wife, Debbie, when they were in the graduate program at MSU. “We were both members of the wind ensemble the same year that it performed at the Missouri State Educators Conference,” he said. “The ensemble practiced eight hours a day and we met during the long rehearsals.” Stephen and Debbie married in 2001 and have two children, Hannah and Bethany.
After graduating from MSU in 2000, Stephen taught at Parkview High School in Springfield, Mo.; Shelby County Public Schools in Shelbina; and at Weaubleau.
He has been a part of the Popular Bluff High School Band Department since 2002, and is currently serving as the Director of Bands and Fine Arts Department Chair.
“The Music Department [at Evangel] gave me a strong foundation to be able to make informed decisions as a band director. Although band directing can be overwhelming at times, I felt that I was provided with the right tools to be able to survive my first year of teaching and to inspire children with music,” Stephen said.
Justin attended Evangel University from 2003 to 2007, earning a degree in Music Education. “I decided to attend because Evangel’s reputation in music was the highest of any of the A/G universities I had looked into, and I knew I wanted to study music. I hit it off really well with Dr. Kolstad and Mr. Shows and knew that was where I wanted to study,” Justin said. He decided to study trombone under the direction of Dr. Kolstad.
Justin was selected in fall 2006 to participate in a conduction mentorship with Dr. Dissmore during Evangel’s production of My Fair Lady. The Rev. Tom Matrone, national music director of the Assemblies of God, also mentored him in choral conducting and church music. Justin also played electric, acoustic and bass guitars at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo., under the leadership of the Rev. Matrone.
“Little did I know that those men, and many others in the Music Department, would help shape my skills and sharpen my spirit as I struggled to decide what I wanted to do,” Justin said. “Not enough credit can be given to them for the role they have had in my life. I certainly hope I will make as big a difference in someone else’s life as they have in mine.”
During his time at Evangel, Justin participated in various ensembles including Jazz Band, University Band, University Orchestra, Concert Orchestra and Chorale. His best memories of Evangel include the Concert Orchestra tours to 30 states and seven countries in Europe and Canada, and the friends he made during those times. “The late 3 a.m. theology discussions, the all-night study groups to cram for a test we had procrastinated on and the companionship that I had with those friends will always be something I treasure,” he said.
Justin met his wife, Kara (Carter), during his sophomore year at Evangel when mutual friends in the Music Department arranged for them to get together. Both were from Oklahoma, but hadn’t met before they came to Evangel. “We found out quickly that our personal and professional goals complemented each other very well. Our values were very similar and our families had a lot in common,” Justin said. “It wasn’t too long before we really felt at peace about the direction our relationship was going.”
They began dating and were married two and a half years later, in December 2007. During their engagement, they attended marriage counseling sessions and a premarital retreat through Evangel. “Everyone who is considering getting married needs to do counseling,” Justin said. “Our experience at Evangel’s Counseling Center was very beneficial.”
In the fall of 2008, Justin joined the Poplar Bluff High School Band Department as the assistant director of bands, working with Stephen Winters. He feels that his experience at Evangel made an impact on his life as he prepared for his career. “I definitely feel the Music and Education Departments did an excellent job preparing me for what would be expected of me as a professional educator, and the spiritual growth prepared me for the next chapters in mine and Kara’s lives as well,” Justin said. “My worldview thinking was impacted for sure.”