Band teacher to teach in South Africa

Steven Schmitz to volunteer at music school


Grace Farley

Band director Steven Schmitz conducts the high school band during the district wide concert Feb. 26. Schmitz will be teaching band in Cape Town, South Africa from May 13 to June 6.

Hannah Leff

According to Band director Steven Schmitz, he will be volunteer teaching at a music school in Cape Town, South Africa from May 13 to June 6.

“I got this offer, that is probably once in a lifetime, to volunteer teach in Cape Town, South Africa. The school is a music school, and I would be teaching saxophone lessons which is my main instrument,” Schmitz said. “I’ll also help with the junior and senior wind ensemble.”

Schmitz said he wanted to travel somewhere exciting with his husband in order to celebrate his husband’s 40th birthday.

“My husband is turning 40, and we started talking about how do we celebrate this that is not just a party or a trip to Chicago. We wanted something that seemed like an advantage and worthy of 40 years,” Schmitz said.

According the Schmitz, he was going to teach music last summer, but was unable to due to his sexuality.

“I was going to teach in Haiti last summer with a church group. But they ended up pulling the plug on it because this particular church group said ‘because you are gay, we are not going endorse that or be seen as endorsing that,’” Schmitz said.

Junior Lexi Lee said the band will miss Schmitz, but he is deserving of the experience.

“I was really excited to hear about it. I think it is a super cool opportunity, and he really deserves it. I’ll think we will miss some of his leadership, but I am glad he has this opportunity,” Lee said.

Schmitz said he was nervous to tell his band students that he would be missing the last 20 days of school to teach in South Africa.  

“I stalled for a really long time. I was worried my (students) would be sad especially my seniors because I would miss graduation and their grad parties,” Schmitz said. “I’ll try to have some food (in class) to try to make up for the parties I’ll miss.”

Freshman Isaac Scott said he is excited for what Schmitz brings back with from his experience teaching in another country.

“I’m sad that (Schmitz) is going to be gone for the last days of school, but I’m also excited because he said he was going to bring some African drums back and teach us some new techniques,” Scott said.

According to Schmitz, he wants to travel in order to gain fresh ideas for his World Drumming and band classes.

“It’s just something I wanted to do because I want to keep getting new ideas and remain fresh. I want to bring back new drums and different ideas about how to teach band,” Schmitz said. “I never want to be stale.”

According to Schmitz, he hopes to have his former student teacher, Philip Claussen, teach his classes in his absence.

“I’ll have a sub who is a former student teacher who a lot of my kids know. We are really excited to have (Philip) Claussen back,” Schmitz said. “I am passionate about leaving the band program in capable and familiar hands, so I think he will be the substitute.”

Scott said he is not worried with Schmitz leaving because his absence will be at the end of the year.

“We’re going to have a new teacher when he is gone and I think that will be kinda cool. I think it will be fine because since it’s getting close to the end of the year, we don’t have as much to learn,” Scott said.

Schmitz said he wants to spread his knowledge to as many people as possible and hopes to do so in his time in South Africa.

“I feel a calling to help those with less than me. The school I’ll volunteer with does outreach and provides music education to five schools in the townships (which are) poor outlying suburbs populated by black people,” Schmitz said.