Kathy Rodeffer: Hitting the Right Notes
On Wednesday morning at the Spring Showcase, Kathy Rodeffer directed her last band performance, capping off a career that has spanned four decades. For more than thirty years she worked as a band and orchestra director in several schools as well as the supervisor for instrumental music for all of Prince George’s County. She had just retired from that work, and her children had started at FCS when the opportunity to remodel the band program here arose. She saw a need and brought her considerable expertise to fill it.
Over the last decade, Kathy built a robust instrumental program working with students from grades 4 through 8. At its largest, the program served more than 70 students a year. Through a combination of lessons and group practice students discovered the finer points of their individual instruments and the value of learning to play together. She says, “I’m really pleased with what we were able to do.”
Many students from FCS have received high school scholarships due to their instrumental skills and Kathy regularly hears from alumni who have gone on to continue their study through college. “My goal has never been to produce kids who go on to major in music. but there is a lot of benefit to that,” she said. “I’ve seen several kids come through the program at Friends who might not otherwise have realized how much music fed their souls. But band is good for all students, not just the ones who will make it a career.”
Kathy knew music fed her own soul from a very young age. She started playing piano when she was four and singing in church choirs at 2. “I don’t put a lot of confidence in talent, but I think I had some innate ability that my parents encouraged and allowed.” As she went through school that talent was noticed by her teachers and she began picking up new instruments year after year. Guitar, snare drum, trumpet, french horn, saxophone, and clarinet are just a few of the instruments she added to her repertoire before leaving high school. In college she continued to play in the band while learning to be a music teacher.
|Though she loved the instruments and the music, Kathy chose this profession because of her students. “There are people that teach band to kids, my outlook has always been I teach kids band. The priority is not on the content, the priority is on the child.”|
At FCS that focus on the children has earned Kathy a strong following, she’s taught whole families in her years at the school and found a lot to love in the community. Kathy explains that playing in a band is all about community. “Band is one of the few places where we are required and expected to pursue perfection. I tell my students, hitting the right notes is a starting point, not an ending point. Doing our best is how we show respect, responsibility, and care for the community. We play the right notes because if we don’t, we all sound bad. That’s something that’s really profound for kids to learn.”
Hundreds of students have learned from Kathy both at FCS and beyond our school. Her work has had a profound impact on so many and on occasion she is reminded of that impact in surprising ways. She has students from 30 years ago who never miss sending her a happy mother’s day note. On a trip to Noodles & Company someone came from across the restaurant to tell her, “you were one of my favorite teachers.” She was invited to a 40th birthday party by former students who are married and met in band. “I am content and satisfied with my body of work.” Kathy says. “What more can anyone ask of a career? I think I did it as well as I could have.”
As Kathy directed her last concert on Wednesday, Lower School students sat on the floor behind her mirroring her graceful arm movements in time with the music. To our ears, there were no bad notes, just the sweet joyful sound of community.