Inheriting a legacy

Sundance High School welcomes new music teacher

By Sarah Pridgeon

Picking up the baton at Sundance High School this year is new music director Steve West. Full of enthusiasm for the program and his predecessor’s work, West intends to continue that legacy while also adding some flourishes of his own.

“Todd made it clear from the beginning not to feel pressure to do things as he did it…but I feel like he’s done such a fantastic job that I’m going to do so many things that he’s done,” West smiles.

“I’m definitely continuing the Florida trips, all the band trips to different regional competitions and things like show choir.”

West is originally from Cincinatti. He served as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Navy from 1996 to 2005 before attending college in Laramie.

“I student taught in the spring of 2010 and then taught elementary music in Newcastle for three years. I took a year off, then went down to Laramie for my Masters degree and just graduated,” he says.

Fate intervened when West came across Todd Kahler’s email address a few months ago and decided to get in touch.

“I knew I wanted to stay in Wyoming because I love the values of Wyoming, the families and of course the scenery. It’s a unique position because you can’t just be band or choir, you have to be both,” he says.

“As an undergrad, I was mainly band – I did men’s choir, but it was mostly just for fun – but this time around I focused on the choir part and took choral conducting with a professor down there, vocal pedagogy about the inside of the voice. I think everything happens for a reason.”

The timing was perfect. Just as Mr. Kahler was retiring, West was graduating and seeking his first challenge.

“I’ve had a lot of really deep conversations with Todd. I think [my teaching style] will be very similar,” he says.

“For the past month and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time at the school getting the room set up and watching a lot of the DVDs of the Florida trips, Veteran’s Day concerts, spring and Christmas concerts, variety shows. I’m so glad those are there because I could see his approach.”

Though determined to continue the legacy left by his predecessor, West does also intend to place his own mark on the music program in Sundance. For example, he says, he would like to introduce a capella, bring in a choreographer for show choir and encourage more students to prepare for all state band and choir.

“In the future I want to do musicals and I heard they had really good success with Arsenic and Old Lace. Maybe in a not-Florida year, we could do a musical,” he continues.

“I heard that years ago they used to do community theater and I was involved in community theater when I was in Newcastle. I’d like to set that up again, it’s a fantastic stage and auditorium.”

West also notes that his skills are available to the community if needed.

“When I was in the Navy, I used to play Taps and I recently joined an organization called Bugles Across America, if anybody ever needs Taps at a funeral,” he says.

Though school has not yet begun, West will be working with his students throughout the summer.

“We have summer lessons every Wednesday starting at 9 a.m. The Wednesday lessons will be continuing until school starts,” he says.

“The first part of the morning is blocked off for incoming seventh graders – woodwinds, percussion and then brass – and later on there’s guitar and drum line and in the afternoon there are some open slots. The end of the day is for people who want to work on their skills for all state.”

Meanwhile, next week marks the Crook County Fair’s annual parade – a must for students with hopes to perform during the school year.

“The deal was always, with Todd in the past and with me now, if they want to go to the Laramie Band Days in October then they have to be in the parade in July,” he says.

“On Thursday and Friday next week we’ll meet for parade practice and then on Saturday we’ll start the parade.”

Students who wish to participate should attend practice from 4-5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and will meet in the library parking lot for the parade itself at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday.