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Frostburg grad returns as band director

June 10, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Former North Hagerstown High School band director Noel T. Kunkle has been hired as band director at Frostburg State University, his alma mater.

Since leaving North High two years ago, Kunkle, of Williamsport, has served as a judge at several band festivals and given private music lessons. He said he is eager to teach at the college level and "go back home."

"It's an exciting challenge. It's going to be fun, though," he said Thursday.

Kunkle, 55, retired in September 1997. He underwent surgery following summer camp and did not return to school, citing personal reasons.

The part-time position at Frostburg includes directing the university's wind ensemble in the spring. Kunkle also will teach a basic conducting course and oversee student teaching.

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Former Frostburg band director Mark Aldrich left for a position at Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W. Va. Kunkle came to Frostburg as a substitute in March and was impressed with the 45-member marching band.

"I was quite excited about the talent, the commitment, the level of responsibility. They are there because they want to be, every one of them," he said.

Kunkle conducted the band in an audition May 13. He interviewed the same day and Karen Soderberg, chairwoman of the music department, offered him the job May 14.

"I was honored they chose me," Kunkle said.

He will direct the band in the fall. He said his realistic goal is to increase the group's size to 75 members, but he dreams of a 100-piece band. At that size, it could participate in national parades and games, he said.

Kunkle graduated from Annapolis High School in 1962 and went to Frostburg two years after its music program began. While there he met his wife, Washington County Board of Education Music Resource Specialist Susie Kunkle.

Susie Kunkle was the Williamsport High School band director for 13 years before going to the School Board.

Noel Kunkle was band director at Clear Spring High School for 13 years before spending 18 years at North.

"It's a very musical family," he said. One of the couple's daughters, Nancy Mitchell, graduated from Frostburg in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in music education.

While Kunkle was at North, the high school's band held the Maryland State Championship of Bands title for almost 10 years. But Kunkle said it was the students' accomplishment, not his. "It wasn't a 'me' thing. It always has to be a 'we' thing. That's what makes music special," he said.

Kunkle said he retired after 31 years in the school system for personal reasons. "I never thought I wanted to go back," he said.

About 55 Frostburg students are music majors and 25 are music minors, according to Chairwoman Soderberg. She said she did not know why Kunkle retired.

"We were just really impressed with what he had to offer," she said.

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