DVHS band teacher Marc Walker’s unique rock and football background translates into his current-day teaching style


Kimberly Cui

Mr. Marc Walker enjoys conducting pep band at a home football game, one of his many duties as band director.

Grace Zhao, Kimberly Cui, and Jennifer Sheng

DVHS band teacher Marc Walker has taught music for 16 years, but in high school he wasn’t just dubbed “the band kid” — he also toured in a rock band and played competitive football. Being both a musician and an athlete and conducting classical bands with his rock history are part of a unique high school backdrop that now brings him to his current occupation of teaching. 

Walker had been exposed to music ever since he was a child. Growing up in San Diego County, he began playing the saxophone when he was 10 years old. 

“There [was] always music in the house,” he said. “I got some of my mom’s influences which were The Beatles and The Monkees. My dad likes a little bit more of the classic rock kind of sound like The Moody Blues … and then I decided to pick up saxophone when I was 10, and never looked back.” 

For all four years at San Pasqual High School in Escondido, California, Walker was a member of the marching band and a defensive end for the football team, winning the California Interscholastic Federation championships for football his senior year. Although his schedule was extraordinarily tight, he was still able to balance school with his extracurriculars with effective time management. Because marching band and football simultaneously occurred in the fall seasons, Walker was willing to go that extra mile compared to other students who were only in marching band. 

“Even though I didn’t march the show Friday night during the games, I did march on Saturday,” he explains. “It was pretty easy, but I had to give up at least one day of my weekend.”

Playing in a marching band requires a lot more responsibility than just showing up at the games; although DVHS does not have a marching band, Walker notes that current pep games allow band kids to engage in school spirit without forcing them to sacrifice their academic commitments.

While he also played the guitar, bass and drums, he ultimately decided to study his first instrument at Biola University’s Conservatory of Music, where he earned degrees for both saxophone and music education. 

Saxophone also led a high school Walker to join a touring rock band called God Rocket, where they signed a record contract at age 19. 

“We were a punk rock band with a horn section,” he said. “[It was] a lot of fun because you get to know the musicians and you realize that the music scene is a lot smaller than you think it is, so you end up seeing people all the time at different shows. I’m still friends, 20 years later, with people from my band.”

Walker’s band also produced albums using a real studio and engineers — his albums included “Saved” and “The Trouble with Jerry.” Before long, Walker’s band had a loyal fan following from local high schools.

“[They] would show up at every local show that we do; they just liked our music,” he said.

Although Walker had initially planned on becoming a history teacher, he attributes his traveling band as a reason he chose to teach music.

“Before I [was] actually off to university I was just in all the little groups that I could be in musically,” he said. “[So] I’m like, okay, I’m gonna teach music. That just feels right. So that’s what I [did].”

Walker currently teaches fourth and fifth grade band at Neil Armstrong Elementary and Country Club Elementary in addition to Dougherty Valley High School. In his teaching throughout all grade levels, Walker aims to help his students improve as much as they can with their instrument. 

DVHS junior Arav Bhattacharya plays percussion in band and noted Walker’s helpful influence during his freshman year.

“I was initially struggling quite a bit, and Mr. Walker was often supportive in that he told me how to improve and he gave me some insight,” he said. “By the end of the year he was very warm and…nice about showing me that I had improved, so I’m very grateful to Mr. Walker because he helped me enjoy that.”

DVHS junior David Kang, who had Walker in freshman and sophomore year, adds that Walker helped hold him accountable for his growth on the flute, especially over the online school year. Walker gave them flexibility with all their virtual projects, allowing them to find their groove performing pieces in small ensembles of their choosing — similar to the music groups Walker dedicated his time to in high school.

“Walker was a pretty big part…of why I wanted to continue band. Walker really pushed [us students] to be accountable. That sort of helped me grow both in my musicianship and just in life,” he said.

Bhattacharya also conveys an initial surprise to Walker’s impressive past; however, he finds it to align with Walker’s current-day dynamic, in both teaching and in general. 

“[Finding out that Mr. Walker was in a rock band] shocks me because Mr. Walker is a pretty classical music kind of guy from what it seemed,” he explained, “but it also doesn’t shock me because Mr. Walker is pretty cool and being in a rock band is also kind of cool. I think that’s kind of expected in a good way.” 

To put his teaching first, Walker finds that above all, personal dedication to one’s instrument is usually a trait of success.

“There’s no such thing as perfection. I know many students don’t like [to hear] that, but there just isn’t. The goal is to constantly get better,” he said. “As a music teacher, [I’m] not out there expecting [students] to play [music pieces] exactly right … but I want them to get better at it every time they do it. Those [students] that do are the ones who are successful.”