PLEASANT HILL — Director of bands and choirs at Newton Local Schools Matthew Gaal has always had the music in him, or rather the love of performing it.
“I started band in fourth grade,” he said. “I grew up in the Columbus, Ohio-area. I stuck with it and I did high school band, marching band, concert band, jazz band, pretty much anything I could get involved with. Then I decided to make music my career choice and wound up at Ohio State.”
He studied music education and was involved with the Glassmen drum and bugle corps and The Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, which are independent organizations. Glassmen is based out of Toledo and the Bluecoats is based out of Canton. He was also involved with the Ohio State University marching band.
Gaal credited opportunities such as getting to volunteer-teach in Jamaica for three months in 2014 and student teaching this past spring in Westerville with helping him develop his teaching skills.
“A lot of different experiences definitely helped my teaching today,” he said.
He applied for jobs all over Ohio and got the job at Newton, which he expressed his gratitude for.
“I know Newton has a strong tradition of excellence and I wanted to be a part of that,” he said.
The band starts in mid-July with band camps and general rehearsals. Gaal said the band practices five days a week after the Fourth of July and takes a break during the week of the Miami County fair.
“We take that week off because a lot of the kids have other commitments during that week,” he said.
Once school starts, the band rehearses at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Gaal said the time arrangement stemmed from the fact that Newton is a small school and everyone is involved in everything.
“I have students in the band who are playing soccer and playing volleyball or on the cross country team or are involved in FFA or SCCLA,” he said. “Because they’re involved in so many things, we rehearse in the morning and rehearse for three hours on Friday evenings before competition.”
Gaal credited Don Jenkins, George Edge and Jason Graham as being legendary for the band program and the students and leading the band to success. So far during his tenure, the band has won two grand championships.
“The first time we won was Grove City, which was three weeks ago,” he said. “We won Class B-C Grand Champion there and none of us were really expecting it. We didn’t have what we saw to be our best performance that night, but it turned out that we did have a good performance but we didn’t feel that way for some reason.”
Each venue and audience listening is different, but Gaal said he advises his students to not do anything different, which he said helps them to focus on doing their best.
Overall, with his first year of teaching under way, Gaal expressed his gratitude for the band and his own tutelage.
“I think the students have been trained really well by the educators that have been here before me and the band directors that have been here before me,” he said. “I attribute a lot of my success to the support I get here at the school, my personal training at Ohio State — I owe a lot to my professors and mentors there who have helped me get to this point.”
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at email@example.com or on Twitter @Troydailynews.