“A great legacy” as new AHS choir teacher reflects on year

By Kalle Akkerman

AHS Choir Teacher

Greetings from the AHS choir room, where not much has changed over the past few decades: the smell is reminiscent of 1970 (says my aunt, an alumna, who recently visited), the grand mural on the east wall is still the only slice of brightness amidst the harsh, fluorescent glow of the room, and the director is one of the few teachers in the building whose clothes are powdered with chalk dust at the end of each day.

I’m not sulking, I promise.

Kalle Akkerman

I spent four very transformative years as a student studying vocal music in this very same room.  This is the room where I learned the true beauty and value of both music and people, the room that changed my life. Whiteboard or not, its historic atmosphere and all of the musical relics from decades before I was born taught me much about life while providing a safe place to allow vulnerability and growth.   Walking back into the choir room is just like walking back in time to 2011, the year I graduated. Not much has changed, and yet everything is different, because instead of being led by the inimitable Mr. Brian Johnson, I suddenly find myself in charge.

Now, before I continue, I must pay my utmost respect and thanks to Mr. Johnson, my predecessor in this position for the last 32 years. It is my goal to continue to provide incomparable experiences for our students, as you so graciously did for us.

A great legacy has been left to me as I assume the directorship of the AHS choral program. When I first applied for the job, I was excited for the possibility of doing what Mr. J had done so well for so many years. Coming back to Austin has brought back a flood of memories, and I’ve been treading those waters carefully so as not to be caught up in the past.  As someone who has left and returned, I can earnestly say that while I’m proud of the town’s history, I’m even more excited to see how we will grow as a community, and who we’ll be, and how music can help take us there.

So, rest easy.  The Austinaires, Choralaires, and Vocal Jazz will continue as normal, the level of excellence in music will continue to astound, and the Austin choir program will move forward with new music and new ideas. I want to provide my students with the same sort of exhilarating and life-changing experiences that I was lucky enough to be a part of through the music program here at Austin High School.  I’m glad to be able to come home and give back to the community and the institution that invoked my life’s passion.  Thank you for supporting our students in their musical journey.

Please join us at 7 p.m.Monday, Dec. 17, for our Austin High School Holiday Concert in Knowlton Auditorium featuring holiday selections from our choral, band and orchestra programs. It will certainly put you in the holiday spirit!

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