RHS to unify band courses next year


RHS Band director Matt Koutney conducts at last Wednesday’s winter band performance. Koutney and senior alto-saxophone player Alyssa Abbott believe the addition of section instructors improved performance at shows. (SINO OULAD DAOUD/EYE OF THE TIGER)


Under second year band director Matt Koutney, the program at RHS is making a couple of significant changes. For one, they will offer a year-long band course next year, as opposed to separate semester-long courses for marching and symphonic band. Additionally, they are also bringing in specialized instructors to work with various sections of the band.

Koutney worked to create the year long class with the goal of increasing consistency throughout the year.

“Now we’ll maybe have two thirds of our band all year long and then we’ll be rotating in another third of the students each semester,” Koutney said. “When you’re trying to think about growth and momentum building and progress, it’s hard to do that.”

According to senior alto-saxophone player Alyssa Abbott, the push for a year-long course started with previous band director Mark Toffelmier, so the band can develop as a cohesive group.

“It’s really important to grow the program,” Abbott said. “It’s very tough to have a new group of kids come in. It’s basically restarting, going from scratch for all the chemistry and how people play together.”

However, sophomore fifth base in drumline Isabella Langley predicts a year-long course will hinder participation for herself and others by taking up more of their school schedule.

“There’s a lot of classes I need to take my junior and senior year and I made a special spot for marching band,” Langley said. “If it had to be an all year class I wouldn’t be able to take it.”

Koutney acknowledges the new structure will limit schedule flexibility, but feels that it ultimately benefits the students.

“This move is geared toward providing the best experience to the kids who want to do band and make it their priority,” Koutney said. “For students who look at this and say it’s a big time commitment, sometimes it is and you may have to choose an activity.”

This year, Koutney brought in five new instructors to work with individual sections of the band.

According to Koutney, he began interviewing people last year so students could receive direct help from professionals. He found the instructors helped the program function productively.

“I’ve got help this year with the staff, so I was able to plan ahead and make sure that we’re using our time efficiently,” Koutney said. “We’d have sometimes five, six different groups working on different things at the same time which we couldn’t do before.”

Senior drummer Eric Peterson feels the instructors allow the band to put together a cleaner production.

“Adding in the instructors is really giving us a lot more focus and attention to detail to really small things instead of just the general aspects of marching band,” Peterson said. “We now get to have as quality of a performance as possible.”

Though Abbott acknowledges the instructors aided the students to an undefeated competition season, she emphasizes the success of the band should not take priority over the teacher-student relationship.

“Taking a step back and not being as intimate with your students is kind of a loss,” Abbott said. “So when you’re in the classroom, you’re in the classroom and you’re teaching and it is work time and we are accomplishing one goal and we’re supposed to win, that’s what we want to do, but I don’t think that’s as important as going in and really making an impact on somebody’s life, especially at this age.”

Peterson believes students adapted to the change in director with time and now have a better idea of the direction of the program.

“The first year there were a lot of rough patches as he was trying to get used to how teaching was because that was his first year teaching anyone,” Peterson said. “And it was also tough for us to get used to him a bit but now that we’ve kinda got into the rhythm of things.”

As Koutney’s second year leading the program, he feels his relationship with the students has improved.

“Whenever there’s change there’s going to be resistance to change and that’s just human nature,” Kountey said. “But the important thing is that the majority of the kids are seeing that what we’re doing is working and we’re seeing results.”