Band hits high note

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fresh off of winning an award in Hawaii last month, Juneau-Douglas High School band director Ken Guiher isn't letting his students slack off.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

"You've got to work on this," Guiher told the students during an afternoon rehearsal Wednesday. "You must work on this."

The band is scheduled to perform and compete later this month at Southeast Music Festival in Ketchikan. Guiher said he wants his band to be ready.

They've won superior ratings at those competitions for the last three or four years, he said.

"Lots and lots of work on this," he told the band, referring to one tricky section in their music, "like hundreds of times a day."

Guiher seemed to have an easy rapport with his students that comes from his three decades-plus of teaching.

They went quiet when he asked them to; they moaned at his jokes.

"He's one of the greatest teachers I've had, by far," said senior Sierra Jadaire, who plays the clarinet.

Tuba player Stephen Young, who also is a senior, said the band's success is due to Guiher's experience and the students' motivation.

"A lot of us, we value the music," Young said. "We put in the time. We have a vigor towards it."

The work paid off in the Heritage Music Festival in Hawaii, where JDHS won the Outstanding Band award.

Young said it will be interesting to see what happens next year, when the school district opens a second high school, Thunder Mountain High School, and band students may be split between the two schools.

He said the success of both band programs will depend on students' attitudes and willingness to work.

"If people practice, they are going to get better," Young said.

But Jadaire said splitting up the band program may result in one school having an excess of one type of instrument while lacking others.

"It's just going to sound bad," Jadaire said.

For his part, Guiher, who's been at JDHS for 13 years, said he's not worried about the long-term health of the band program, which has about 80 students. He said his program may be set back for a year or two because of the new school, but will eventually right itself.

He added that he plans on staying at JDHS and the district plans on hiring a band director for the new school.

There's plenty of talent in Juneau to fill band programs at both schools, he said.

"My music kids just appear," Guiher said, adding that the adult music scene in town isn't bad either.

Guiher plays trumpet with the Juneau Symphony and occasionally with Ron Maas' Thunder Mountain Big Band.

"I love sitting with them," he said. "I just never have the time."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or

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