“One of the things that drew me to Highland was the sense of community here,” says Drew Rebecchi, Highland High School’s new concert and jazz band director. Born and raised in North Syracuse, NY, he moved to this area just the weekend before starting his new position. “There seems to be a really tightly knit community here with a lot of involvement with the school,” he adds. “And I want to give the students performance opportunities outside of the school day within the community, whether that be at nursing homes or town events or fundraisers in the area. I’d like to see the students have as many opportunities as possible to go out and perform.”
Before coming to Highland, Rebecchi was woodwind director for the marching band at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, the same high school he graduated from. He also worked with a competitive drum group at the school and was jazz band instructor for eighth and ninth graders at the local junior high school. The oldest of five siblings, Rebecchi says he’s comfortable working with the high school students in his charge. “I think I can be a relatable figure to them, because I was in their shoes about eight to ten years ago. That helps me relate to them not only musically but on a day-to-day basis with anything that might be going on.”
After graduating from Cicero-North Syracuse High School, Rebecchi went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music education at SUNY Fredonia and a master of science degree in music education from Syracuse University. Rebecchi also played clarinet with the professional 16-member Silverwood Clarinet Choir group in Syracuse.
His primary instrument is the clarinet, which he started playing in fourth grade and played all throughout school, auditioning on that instrument when he went to college. But of course, a high school band leader has to be able to play all the instruments, and Rebecchi says they got plenty of training on that at Fredonia, where they were required to take semester-long courses on all the band instruments as part of the music education degree program.
Rebecchi will lead both the jazz and concert bands at Highland High School’s annual winter concert on Wednesday, December 10 at 7 p.m. “I wanted to choose a variety of music and some new things for them,” he says. “The students here have played some great music in the last few years, but I don’t want them to play the same music they just played. So we’re doing a march, which is pretty much a staple for all bands, and a medley of three famous sailing songs. One thing I’m really excited about is something that hasn’t been done in a long time at the school; every year the chorus performs the Hallelujah Chorus [from Handel’s “Messiah”], and this year the band is going to accompany them. We just ran through it with the choir for the first time last week and it sounded great.”
The Highland Music Boosters organization, made up primarily of parents of music students who advocate for more opportunities for their children in the school’s music program, has been very supportive of the new band leader, citing his enthusiasm. “I look forward to working with them more throughout the school year,” Rebecchi says. “They’re a great resource to the music program here at the high school and they go above and beyond to help out. It’s great to know there’s support from the community and parents who understand the value of music education; you don’t always get that.”
Busy with starting the new job, he hasn’t had a chance to explore the Hudson Valley much yet. But he’s settling into the area. “Things are starting to fit into place,” he says. “And this area is just beautiful. Lately I’ve started becoming more of an outdoorsy person, and I’d like to do some hiking. I’ve heard there are a lot of great places around here to do that.” His girlfriend in Syracuse, Stacey, is also a teacher, of English as a second language.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting the kids excited about music and band and performing,” Rebecchi says. “I’m excited to continue on and see what the rest of the year has to offer.”