Cadillac's Mike Filkins named District 1 Band, Orchestra Teacher of the Year

Mike Filkins has been the band director at Cadillac for 21 years. He was named Band and Orchestra Teacher of the Year recently among 16 District 1 schools.

CADILLAC — Cadillac High School band director Mike Filkins has been named the MSBOA District 1 Band and Orchestra Teacher of the Year.

Filkins has taught at Cadillac for 21 years of his 36-year teaching career. He was selected by fellow directors among 16 districts.

Learning the news on May 7, Filkins said the recognition is "awesome" and "humbling," but he credits his students for making him appear worthy of the award.

Filkins said he doesn't do anything unorthodox in the classroom but hopes that the principles he teachers are shared in band classes elsewhere.

Filkins graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in clarinet. He reminds his students that the ability to play an instrument is a gift.

"I try to impress upon my kids that the reason most people don't play a musical instrument is because it's hard," he said.

While many students won't pursue music beyond high school, Filkins said, lessons learned in band and orchestra can apply throughout life.

"We typically start a project and see it through to the end," he said. "We have a constant sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. We're always relying on each other. We're always reflecting.

"To become an engineer or furniture maker when you leave school, and get through those hard times, they will realize they have the ability to get through it."

The Cadillac High School band was accepted in 2015 and 2017 to play in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit, winning Battle of the Bands in its first appearance.

If there's something unique about the Cadillac band, he said, it's students' willingness to give their time to others, whether it's Christmas caroling at assisted living homes or participating in Memorial Day celebrations.

"Students understand the importance of giving back to the community," Filkins said. "It's one thing to have this gift, and it's another thing to be able to share it."