Former JDHS band members return to play with their high school music teacher

Posted: Sunday, October 04, 2009

Longtime Juneau-Douglas High School music teacher Ken Guiher has seen many students go through his program - including two who have returned home to perform with the Juneau Concert Band this weekend.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"The group just keeps improving," Guiher said of the concer band. "It is a great opportunity for people who have played in bands before to play again."

Anja Akstin, a 2004 graduate, even rearranged her work schedule at a local credit union in order to play in the "Inspirations!" concert at 3 p.m. today at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

"The Juneau Concert Band is a great group and a lot of fun to play with," Akstin said. "Playing in Juneau again has been a real relief. It's a nice change from military marches."

An Armed Forces and Juneau Volunteer Marching Band veteran, Akstin was recruited to the Marine Corps Band in Quantico, Va., while still a senior in high school. She normally plays the tuba but will play the euphonium today.

"It's been a real treat to play in a different section," she said. "Tubists never get solos, but on the euphonium I actually get one. The euphoniums play in every piece. I am especially looking forward to 'Redwoods.' It is very well composed and beautiful."

Like Akstin, 2008 graduate Stephen Young succeeded in music under Guiher as president of the wind ensemble. Guiher called him an outstanding musician.

"He has a great attitude and is a delight to have in class," Guiher said of Young. "He continually encourages others to work harder."

Guiher said that while in high school band, Young practiced continually and has a "huge repertoire for someone his age."

"The students admire his musical ability so much they called him Tuba Steve," Guiher said. "He shows an amazing amount of tenacity and determination in perfecting his art."

Larry Stevens, co-founder of the Juneau Volunteer Marching Band, agreed.

"(Young), like Anja, is an excellent tuba player," he said. "Fortunately, the Juneau Concert Band can provide a playing opportunity for both of them."

A JDHS music teacher since 1995, Guiher's first musical was "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and he has since conducted about 10 others.

As the band's conductor, he said the inspiration for today's concert is simply that - pieces that have inspired him over the years. Guiher said "First Suite," by Gustav Holst, and "English Folk Song Suite," by Ralph Vaughan Williams, are two of his favorites.

"We played one of them on our trip to Florida and the other on our trip to Chicago, and those were very fond memories," Guiher said. "In fact, all of the pieces we are playing are favorites I have directed with my high school bands."

Guiher himself has played with several members in the Juneau Symphony Orchestra and the Thunder Mountain Big Band, and many are his former band students.

"I hope even more of my former students will join," he said. "It is really great to send the message to them that just because they have graduated doesn't mean the opportunities for performance have ceased."

The Juneau Concert Band, designed for advanced adult musicians who have played in high school or college, presents two concerts a year but includes musicians of all ages and levels of abilities.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or

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