‘Mr. K’ hits high note with students

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January 16, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Being able to teach music is more than just a job to Matt Kleopfer.
“The best part is watching the kids mature, succeed and be excited,” Kleopfer said. “I’m not just a music teacher but a mentor to them. If you’re just a music teacher you’re missing out on a part of the job.”
Kleopfer, also known as “Mr. K” by his students, is the band instructor for Iola Middle School and Iola High School. This month he was awarded the Horizon Award. The award identifies and recognizes exemplary first-year teachers in Kansas.
When it came to nominating a teacher from USD 257, IHS principal Stacey Fager already had Kleopfer in mind.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Mr. Kleopfer,” Fager said Monday night during the USD 257 board meeting.
Kleopfer said he is honored to receive the Horizon award, but credits his students for the band department’s success.
“It’s fun to come to work every day and work with these kids,” Kleopfer said. “Honestly, they deserve the award. I ask more from these kids than any other program in the area and they do it.”
Since coming to Iola last year, Kleopfer has quickly received support from the district and the community. He has set goals to grow the department.
“We are excited for Mr. Kleopfer and for USD 257 because we know what a great teacher we have for our students,” said Jack Koehn, superintendent of schools. “I know Matt is going to continue to build our instrumental programs. He has a rare combination of talent, knowledge, personality and common sense that has given him a tremendous amount of credibility with his students, parents, staff members and administrators. This is just the beginning.”

THE BAND department has a lot on its plate in the upcoming weeks.
Presidio Brass, a brass quintet from California, will be performing at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Earlier in the day Presidio will host a clinic for Iola, Humboldt and Marmaton Valley band students. Later that night the students will perform with Presidio Brass.
“This is a great opportunity for the students,” Kleopfer said.
On Feb. 4 the Wichita State Shocker Sound Pep Band will come to Iola for an athletic band clinic. The director of the music education department from WSU will also join the clinic. Later that night, the WSU and Iola pep band will play at the basketball game.
“Iola has become a place you go to a basketball game and it’s a true event,” Kleopfer noted.
WSU will teach students how to play loud and control things like tone and tempo.
Students also have three jazz camps coming up, middle school has auditions and solo and jazz ensemble competitions.
His students’ hard work is showing lots of results. Recently Shannon Vogel and Rebecca Cunnigham, both seniors, made state honor band and Cassie Shelby, seventh grade, made the John Phillips Sousa Honor Band.

ONE GOAL that Kleopfer set in place when starting in Iola was to bring more people to the concerts. 
“I want to get back to where people want to go and listen and see what these kids are doing,” he said.
He said community members have been very supportive of the band students.
“These kids work so hard because they know they have community support.”
Funding a large band program can be a struggle. Kleopfer applied for a $1,500 grant through Walmart and the school ended up receiving a $2,000 grant. The grant will help purchase more instruments for the students.
“We are in dire need of funds for the program,” he said. “The program is exploding faster than we can put instruments in the kids’ hands.”
To help out the bands, Nancy Cokely, art teacher at Jefferson Elementary, is putting together a scrapbook event on Feb. 22 in the IHS commons area. It will last from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and registration is $25. The money will help raise funds for the students.
“I’m thankful to have the support of the parents, teachers and community to bring back the rich tradition of Iola band,” he said.
This spring, Kleopfer is hoping to put on a banquet to bring band alumni and current students together.
“I want them to have a meal together and have former members talk to the kids about how the band affected their lives,” Kleopfer said.
During this banquet he would like to unveil the future marching band and talk about the achievements of his students over the year.
“I also want to unveil a piece of marching band history from the ’60s and 70s that will make a comeback next year,” he said.

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