Christian Stephanos directs the KCHS Marching Band during a practice on Aug. 18, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Christian Stephanos directs the KCHS Marching Band during a practice on Aug. 18, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

KCHS strikes up the band

Only a couple of days into the new school year, Kenai Central High School Band Director Christian Stephanos said he was excited to see the program growing.

“It seems like it’s gonna be a good group. It is the largest concert band at KCHS since I’ve been here,” Stephanos said. “That’s super exciting.”

Stephanos took the reins of the bands at KCHS and Kenai Middle School three years ago, following longtime director Deborah Sounart’s retirement in 2020.

“I moved up here that summer, and have been teaching here since then,” he said.

The band’s numbers dwindled in 2020 due to the combined challenges of transitioning from one band director to another while dealing with a global pandemic.

Stephanos said that numbers are finally approaching a healthy range, with members being replaced about as quickly as they are graduating. More students are enrolling in band at both KCHS and KMS.

Running the bands at both schools allows for a cohesive pipeline for student performers directly from the middle school experience into high school. Stephanos said that the significant majority of last year’s eighth graders stuck with the band program as they entered high school.

“About 95% of them are enrolled in band,” he said. “We only lost a couple, which is great.”

Adding to those numbers are a few students joining the high school band without previously performing at KMS. One student transferred from a school in Texas, while a couple more have never done band before.

Instrumentation in the KCHS concert band is fairly balanced this year, according to Stephanos.

“We have a decent-sized percussion,” he said. “All the rest of the sections are pretty evenly sized. Quite a few more flutes than usual, but they’re not overpowering.”

The clarinets, who played one to a part last year, are being reinforced by five new ninth graders.

The band will be putting on its traditional run of four concerts this school year. This begins with a fall concert put on in the month of October, followed by the Christmas concert and dessert auction on Dec. 8.

In 2023, the band will perform a spring concert in March before ending the season in May with a “pops-ish” concert – usually featuring concert band styled takes on some form of popular music, from contemporary hits to iconic musical groups.

A major focus for Stephanos since arriving at KCHS has been expanding the existing drumline program into a full marching band.

“I kind of started working on it as soon as I got here because I am a die-hard marching band fan and I believe in its educational value,” he said.

The marching band first debuted last year, but this year will be fully fleshed out with 28 performers.

“We march flutes, clarinets, trombones, sousaphone and then the typical drumline instruments as well,” Stephanos said.

The marching band will appear at each of the home football games this season. The traditional pep band will also be appearing at basketball games once that season begins.

Despite graduating a lot of seniors last year, Stephanos is hoping to see KCHS’s band represented well in the All-State Music Festival, held annually in Anchorage, this November.

“I don’t see the ones who made it last year not making it this year, and I hope that there’s more that try it for the first time,” he said.

The KCHS band program’s recovery from the pandemic has been slow. For now, the biggest issue on Stephanos’ mind is continuing to get more students into the program.

“I just want to keep growing it at this point,” Stephanos said. “My kind of next five-year goal is just to get our numbers back up and make sure that they’re staying where they should be.”

Looking more to the future, Stephanos said he’d like to see the band to see larger stages.

“I’d like to start getting the concert band out and submitting recordings to festival,” he said. “I’d love to take them to the National Concert Band Festival in Indianapolis.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion 
Two trombone players and a saxophone perform during a KCHS marching band practice Thursday in Kenai.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion Two trombone players and a saxophone perform during a KCHS marching band practice Thursday in Kenai.

More in News

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kenai Peninsula COVID-19 case rate continues to climb

State reports three consecutive week-over-week increases to new high

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola delivers her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Monday, in Juneau. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Peltola celebrates federal intervention in Albertsons, Kroger merger in legislative address

The one-term lawmaker said collaboration between stakeholders has helped produce wins for Alaska’s fisheries and the state’s economy

From left: Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, speak during an at-ease on debate on education legislation on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate concurs on House education bill, Dunleavy is skeptical

The governor’s office announced Dunleavy will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Anchorage to discuss the legislation

Most Read