Dominion Middle School Principal Dottie Flanagan said her favorite Bruce Carlson story involves the school's director of bands wearing a Scooby Doo costume.
It was a few years ago; Flanagan suspects it was around Halloween, given the outfit.
After a performance by Carlson's students -- one that obviously went well -- she recalled Carlson impulsively turned to her and said:
"You know what, Dottie? I can't believe I get paid for doing this!"
The enthusiasm Carlson brings to his work with budding young musicians at the Clintonville school is one of the reasons the Lewis Center resident received the Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Music Educator Award at the secondary level for 2017.
The award, established in 1997, recognizes teachers and others who inspire a love of music in children and adults, according to the orchestra's website.
"I was thrilled, absolutely," said Carlson, who is in his 25th year overall with Columbus City Schools and previously taught at Northland High School and the Spanish Immersion Academy.
At Northland, Carlson worked with longtime director of instrumental music C. Rick Eckler, who was given the orchestra's high school Music Educator Award in 2010.
"It's a tremendous honor," Carlson said. "It was unexpected. I about jumped out of my socks."
He added he feels the award is a group honor -- one he shares with fellow staff members, students and parents.
"For me, I think it's affirmation of our vision at Dominion," Flanagan said. "He has accomplished what he set out to do and more."
During his eight years at Dominion Middle School, Carlson has obtained grants and donations of instruments to help the band program expand, Flanagan said.
"We've got, I feel, the sharpest-sounding band in Columbus City Schools," she said.
Carlson, who grew up near Cleveland, said as a child, his mother brought him along when she taught flute lessons at a music school. Later, to keep him out of trouble, she bought him a baritone horn at a garage sale.
He's loved music ever since.
"I wasn't always the best in the band class," Carlson said. "I knew I had to work twice as hard to get good at it."
When he enrolled at Ohio State University, Carlson initially majored in zoology with an eye toward becoming a veterinarian. Those plans had to be set aside when he developed an allergy to cats and dogs.
A professor in the music department encouraged him to change majors.
"I took some classes and I was, 'I like this,' " he said.
Although he did not initially plan to become a music teacher, Carlson said, he loves what he does at Dominion.
"These kids are passionate about music," he said. "They develop a sense of confidence. They make so much progress each day -- leaps and bounds."
Carlson and his wife, Molly, who works part time in real estate, have two children: Nels, 12, and Anna, 10.
Other 2017 honorees are Columbus Academy's Cynthia Bush, the elementary school Music Educator Award recipient; and Community Award honoree Tatiana Kats, artistic director of the Columbus International Children's Choir.
All three will be honored at a dinner April 22 and will receive grants to help further their efforts toward musical education, according to the orchestra's website.