Grove City Record

New band directors take up batons

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Jason Graham (left) is the new band director at Grove City High School and Keith Hallas is the new director at Central Crossing. They take over this year for longtime directors George Edge and Bob McNutt, respectively, who retired this summer.
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Grove City and Central Crossing high schools have new band directors this year, but neither are entirely new to their schools.

GCHS band director Jason Graham served as a student teacher in 2007 under George Edge, who retired this summer after a storied 27-year history at the school.

Keith Hallas has moved up to director of bands and orchestra at Central Crossing after spending the last six years as an assistant under Bob McNutt, who also retired this summer after serving for 12 years as Central's first and only band director.

Both men know they have big shoes to fill.

"This is really the dream job for me," Graham said. "I'm very blessed and fortunate to follow in George Edge's footsteps. I learned so much from him when I was a student teacher here."

His connection to Edge doesn't stop there.

Graham's previous job was as band director at Newton High School in Pleasant Hill, Ohio -- the same school Edge served at prior to coming to Grove City.

"I guess it's my practice to follow George Edge wherever he goes," Graham said. "When I started at Newton (after his student teaching stint at GCHS), I was sold to the community as the next George Edge of Newton.

"That was how well remembered he was, years after he had left," he said.

Graham said he realized he wanted to be a music educator by his freshman year at Dublin Scioto High School.

"My middle school and high school music instructors were probably the biggest influences on my life in music, as well as being part of the All Star Brass Band led by Eric Aho," he said.

"And my mother, who encouraged me to stick with the piano lessons I began taking when I was 5 years old," Graham said.

As a teacher, the most rewarding part "is working with the kids and seeing them succeed," he said.

Band members are learning lessons of leadership and working collectively that they can carry with them throughout their lives, Graham said.

Before coming to GCHS, Graham spent two summers assisting at the school's summer band camp.

"It was a good experience for me to see how George and his staff operated the camp and it's helpful as I start this year, because the older students at least know who I am from band camp," Graham said.

"My main goal initially is to continue the incredible tradition that's been built here at Grove City High School," he said. "I also will be looking to put my own stamp on the program."

Central Crossing is still a relatively new school that is continuing to build its band tradition.

McNutt did an amazing job in creating the band program at the school, which was originally comprised of students who all came from other South-Western high schools, Hallas said.

"I was lucky to get to work under him the last six years, and it's an honor to follow such a gifted educator," he said. "I'm looking forward to working with our new athletic director and our principal to continue to build the Central Crossing community."

As with most music educators, Hallas was involved in the band at his school in the Youngstown area, but in eighth grade was in the "last chair."

"I kind of reluctantly gave high school band a shot."

It was then that he began to "fall in love with performing music," thanks to the inspiration of his band directors, he said.

At Youngstown State, director of bands Stephen Gage "opened my eyes to the passion of music," Hallas said.

He also discovered after his grandfather died that music could not only be a pleasure, but also a solace during difficult times, he said.

"That's what I try to instill in students -- to make the connection that music is more purposeful than just being notes on a page," Hallas said.

A school band is like a sports team, he said.

Students must put aside their egos and self-interest to work together on a common goal, Hallas said.

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