A music legend who started his career as a teacher in the Cassville R-IV School District will return to his roots this coming January.
Dr. John Knight has been invited to come back to Cassville to work with members of the current Wildcat band and meet with former students he taught from 1969 to 1977 when he served as the school's director of music. Dr. Knight was invited to return to Cassville by Steve Lyons, the high school's current director of instrumental music education.
"I read an article last summer in the Cassville Democrat concerning the book he had published on conducting," said Lyons. "I did an internet search and was so impressed with his credentials that I decided to contact him personally, knowing that our students would benefit from work under such an acclaimed musician."
Lyons said he called Dr. Knight on the telephone and asked him if he would consider "coming home," and Knight was quick to say "yes."
Dr. Knight plans to arrive in Cassville on Jan. 23, 2009, and conduct the band on Jan. 24. A gathering of Dr. Knight's former students will take place on the night of the 23rd at a local restaurant and anyone interested in participating in the reunion is asked to call the CHS office (847-3137).
The Wildcat Band will perform a concert on the night of Jan. 24 with Dr. Knight conducting. The band students will work and rehearse with Dr. Knight for two hours that day before putting on a concert that night.
Lyons said the band is currently beginning its concert season now that the field show competition season has come to an end. Lyons will be sending Dr. Knight copies of the scores the students are preparing and Dr. Knight will be picking two to three scores that he will focus on during his two hours of rehearsal time at Cassville High School.
"I will be preparing the music prior to his arrival, and he will be able to make the music his own within the two hours of rehearsal time with the students," said Lyons.
Some of the music Lyons will be sending Dr. Knight includes: "Nimrod" by Edward Elgar, "Rondo Festival" by Joseph Comppello, "Rhythm of the Winds" by Frank Erickson, "Sun Dancing" by David Shaffer, "Fantasy on a Russian Air" by Johnnievinson and "Root Beer Rag" by Billy Joel.
Lyons believes his students stand to gain much from their exposure to Dr. Knight and his teaching and conducting style.
"I'm sure that if we interviewed each student after the two-day encounter that we would find each student will come away with some new perspectives on their craft," said Lyons. "I believe that they will become more aware of tradition in music education. When you do something well, it evolves into even higher levels of expertise."
Dr. Knight is currently a professor of music education at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, where he oversees music education training and works in conducting and winds. He has published two books during his career and has performed as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States many times.
"Dr. Knight is very highly respected in the music world, but he is a legend in the Cassville School District," said Lyons. "I'm sure that we will receive many contacts from former students that want to come back to be with their music teacher because he did make a distinct impression on them."
Those former students are again reminded to call the high school office at 847-3137 to let Lyons know they are planning to attend a reunion with Dr. Knight on the night of Jan. 23, 2009. Dr. Knight is paying his own travel expenses, so Lyons is asking that some of Dr. Knight's former students consider making a donation to help defray those costs.