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Virginia native to succeed Calcari as GHS music director

David DeBoer, the new Greenfield High School music director, warms up the Rappahannock County High School marching band before a competition at James Madison University.

David DeBoer, the new Greenfield High School music director, warms up the Rappahannock County High School marching band before a competition at James Madison University.

GREENFIELD — A 30-year-old Virginia native will succeed beloved educator Paul Calcari as Greenfield High School’s next music director.

David DeBoer — a five-year music director at a Virginia high school and former drum major at James Madison University — beat out two other finalists for the job, including last year’s assistant director Stephanie Vinci. He’ll take over for Calcari, who retired as high school music director last month after 27 years on the job.

A four-member interview panel — consisting of Principal Donna Woodcock, Associate Principal Maria Lysen and school department music teachers Maria Scotera and Elizabeth Markofski — interviewed the finalists and watched them each conduct a group of Greenfield High School musicians. DeBoer was their unanimous choice, said Superintendent Susan Hollins.

“He had excellent experience and proven accomplishments,” said Hollins. “He explained what he has tried in his high school — classes he has offered to help more students become musicians and instrumentalists, how he has worked with special education students in the school (and) how he works with the middle school band program to assure there is a connection.”

DeBoer said he is excited to move to Massachusetts next month with his wife, Stephanie, and their 2-week-old daughter, Leah. His wife has ties to the southeastern part of the state.

He’ll lead the high school choral and band program and work with two elementary and middle school teachers to create a more unified music department throughout the entire school system.

Greenfield High School is slightly larger than Rappahannock County High School, but both schools teach grades eight through 12. DeBoer said that the music programs have similar offerings: classes, field shows during athletic events, parades and concert band performances.

DeBoer was impressed by his first encounters with the Greenfield music students during his interview.

“Both groups sounded great. I know that I’m stepping into a program that has been very well established,” he said. “(It) made me even more excited about the job once it was offered.”

Markofski, one of the department’s music teachers and a member of the interview panel, was impressed by DeBoer.

“He was able to connect with the students immediately, and create a beautiful new sound with just a few gestures,” she said. “As the vocalist on the committee, I was sure to pay attention to his choral conducting style, artistic phrasing and safe vocal coaching. He did all of these things and more.”

Julie Kimball, a high school teacher and president of the Greenfield High School Music Parents Association, said that the music parents weren’t involved in the hiring process, but were told about DeBoer after his hire during a meeting with Hollins.

“We were very excited to hear about his experience he was coming in with. ... We’re looking forward to meeting him,” said Kimball. They may try to organize an event so that students and parents can meet the new director before the band season begins, she said.

Preparing for change

DeBoer’s hire officially begins the post-Calcari era for the Greenfield High School music department.

Throughout his final year, Calcari had expressed hope that Vinci, his assistant last year, would learn the ropes and then succeed him after his retirement. But school officials have said they had always intended, and were required, to open up the position.

Kimball believes the hiring process was done fairly and said that the music parents trust the interview committee’s decision.

“(The) other music teachers in the district ... have the expertise,” said Kimball. “He was clearly the number one choice of the committee.”

Both Kimball and Woodcock, the school’s principal, acknowledged that it will take time to adjust to the change in music leadership, after the nearly three decades where Calcari was a fixture at the school.

Music students adored Calcari and hundreds returned to Greenfield in May for his three-hour farewell concert. At that event, alumni spoke with pride of the state and national competitions where the relatively small Greenfield band held its own.

While the music program hasn’t focused on major competitions in recent years, the concert band did earn a silver rating at the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductor’s Association festival this February. Judges at that event rank bands against a standard rather than against one another.

“Some things are going to change. It’s going to be difficult when you think about that kind of change,” said Woodcock. “I think in the long run he will make a seamless transition and things will run smoothly. I’m very confident in his ability.”

In his new role, DeBoer said he plans to continue the school’s traditions, and introduce some new ones as well. He started a classical guitar program at his previous school and led his band in field show competitions against other high schools — things he’d like to continue doing in Greenfield.

And DeBoer said he understands what it is like to take over a well-established program with ingrained traditions. The same happened when he entered his previous job five years ago, he said.

“My goals and ambitions are the same as (Calcari’s),” said DeBoer. “I want to produce great music and teach kids how to be musicians. Everything might not be the same but our goals are the same.”

DeBoer decided in fourth grade that he wanted to be a teacher but it wasn’t until his time in the James Madison University band that he zeroed in on music education. He has been primarily a brass player with a focus on trumpet and french horn.

His family is still seeking local housing, but he’s confident they’ll be moved in with enough time to prepare for the music program’s band camp, which starts on Aug. 19.

The high school music program, which has about 100 students, gives many a sense of purpose and reason to come to school each day, said Woodcock. And the band and chorus, at events across the state and country, often serve as the face of the town and the school, she said.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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