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 jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com

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

Spencer McLean and his daughter, Emma McLean, show their support for Proposition 3, through which a new CES Station 1 would be constructed in Soldotna, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Blustery weather, average turnout mark municipal election day

Up for consideration this year were city council, board of education and assembly seats, as well as a handful of propositions affecting borough schools, emergency services and legislative representation

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander sits inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander to leave City of Kenai in January

Ostrander has served as the city manager since 2017

Melanie Hardin, right, greets the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees before her interview for the APFC’s executive director’s job Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Juneau, (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Permanent Fund board picks new executive director

Trustees work overtime selecting from three candidates after interviews Monday

A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Libraries host haunted houses, scary storytimes, seasonal crafts

It’s all about Halloween at Kenai and Soldotna libraries

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Most Read