Thirteen Questions With…Todd Clevenger

By Amos-Cola Staff interviewing Todd Clevenger. Todd is an educator, designer, announcer, voice-over artist, and consultant in the pageantry arts community.

Is your career who you are?

“Absolutely. For most people, that may not be healthy or positive. But for me, it’s been a source of comfort, pride, and joy for over 30 years.”

What do you do for a living?

“Teach. I do other things too, but at the heart of what I really do, I’m a teacher. I know lots of people hear that and think of a regular classroom teacher and I completely understand that but I’ve found lots of reward and value in not only teaching my students but being able to pass along whatever knowledge I’ve gained to other colleagues and younger instructors along the way. At this point in my career, that’s the most rewarding part of my work: watching the next generation pass it on.”

What is your favorite activity to teach?

“Well. I absolutely love them all. It’s kind of like asking which is your favorite child. It’s an impossible question to answer, but there’s nothing like a drum corps season. The fact that everyone is together, singularly focused on getting better, it’s the most intense and rewarding experience a teacher or student can have. I really hope that post-COVID drum corps returns to what we consider normal. It would be a shame if it didn’t. All that being said, I find myself really intrigued and enjoying the [indoor] winds activity right now. It’s like the wild, wild west. The activity is so young and trying to find itself and I find myself very thankful to have the opportunity to help shape what it can become in the future.”

What’s in your backpack?

“Everything. I can literally live out of my backpack if I have to.”

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

“Hawaii. I have a connection to Hawaii that I’ve been fortunate to have for over a decade. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have my career take me to 48 other states and five other countries. There are definitely still places I want to go. Australia and Japan are at the top of the list. But if I ever have to choose, it’s going to be Hawaii every time. It’s like my second home.”

Favorite ice cream flavor?

“Cookies and cream”

Best place for you to think?

“My car. Driving to and from rehearsals, I get a lot of good thinking done.”

What are your design inspirations?

“Life. Anything I see, hear, think, experience. I always find myself wondering how I can express that through my work. I definitely have a tendency to really like to put thought-provoking ideas into our activity, which some people may find uncomfortable at times, but I really think that that is part of what our activity can and should be.”

You can invite three people for dinner, alive or dead. Who are you inviting?

“Impossible question to answer. Obviously, missing family is at the top of the list. But in terms of my career, it would have to be George Zingali, (Keith) Ping Dawson, and Myron Rosander. In my mind, they’re three giants who changed our activity and I didn’t learn nearly enough from them while they were with us and it would be an incredibly entertaining dinner.”

And what would you serve?

“Anything they wanted.”

In general, not only at fancy dinner, but cornbread, biscuits, toast, or muffins?

“Cornbread, but only if it’s my Granny cooking it. Biscuits, if it’s my Mamaw cooking it. I tend towards toast (sourdough). Not a big muffin fan.”

What’s unappreciated in the world?

“Kindness. Art. Intelligence. Listening. I think if all of us could appreciate those four things more then the world would be a better place.”

Favorite swear word?

“Funny question. I first have to tell you that I don’t swear in front of my students. I think it’s wrong and inappropriate. If you can’t get the point across with educationally appropriate language, you probably shouldn’t be doing the job. Now, in my private life, there are two phrases I use frequently: the first is ”are you fucking kidding me?” That phrase is actually high praise for my colleagues when I’m watching their work. Great moments very often find me laughing and saying that phrase out loud. If I’m being profane and upset, it’s usually ”son of a bitch.”

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