Musical Tribute to be Held in Honor of Local Teacher

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. — “It’s awesome. It speaks volumes about what he taught us.  He gave us a love of music.”

That was the assessment a Redbank Valley vocal music teacher made this week as the school district—and a lot of alumni, colleagues and friends—prepare to pay a musical tribute to a former teacher who passed away on Oct. 4 after a long battle with cancer.

Mrs. Carrie McIntire, who had been a  former student  and later a colleague to the departed teacher, Russell Reefer, made the comments regarding preparation for the musical tribute scheduled for November 16, starting at 3 p.m. in the high school auditorium.   The tribute, christened “For the Love of Music: A Tribute to the Leader of the Band,” will involve not only current instrumental and vocal music students in the school, but dozens of alumni, former teaching colleagues and friends.

The response of the scheduled participants to the invitation has been so strong, Mrs. McIntire said, that the latest count of interested contributors has reached nearly 90—and others may yet respond as plans are set for a Saturday rehearsal from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., with a lunch break included.


She reflected on how Mr. Reefer, who had taught instrumental music in the district for more than three decades, had not only taught music to the students, but how he inspired them and influenced them to contribute to the lives of others.

The memorial tribute was the brain child of one of Mr. Reefer’s former students, Erin Anderson Schuetz, and it quickly gained momentum as others responded to the idea. She and another strong advocate, Scott Sherry, not only felt so strongly that the departed teacher deserved the musical memorial, but they subsequently approached the school district’s board of education and advocated having the high school auditorium named in honor and memory of Mr. Reefer. The board, which has an existing policy against naming school buildings, properties or programs after an individual, took no action on the request but indicated the proposal would be examined.

Among a number of former Redbank Valley music teachers expected to participate in the concert are Dr. Brad Genevro, Royce Hetrick, Paul Stahlman and Toni Caruso.  Expected to join them, in addition to the high school instrumental and vocal students, are musicians who met Mr. Reefer through his involvement as an adjunct professor at Clarion University and Grove City College.  Mrs. McIntire, and the school district’s current instrumental music teacher,  Sarah Willliams—who succeeded Mr. Reefer as the director of the high school marching band—are also slated to join others in presenting the tribute.  Ms. Williams had not only been a colleague to Mr. Reefer, but earlier had been a student of his while she was in high school.1798258_1539406546270905_5912294979924209318_n

Scheduled to serve as the master of ceremonies as well as one of the participating directors, will be Dr. Roger Tabler, a 1986 RVHS graduate who has taught instrumental music for more than 20 years in the Mt. Lebanon School District, and who is the founder and current music director/conductor for the Pittsburgh Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mrs. McIntire said that while the initial deadline for participation—Nov. 1—has passed, persons wishing to join in the experience may contact her or Ms. Williams at the high school at 275-2424.  “This has been so exciting to see the interest generated….I had a call the other day from an alum who said they hadn’t pulled their  trumpet  out of the case for 20 years. Now they are going to do that and join in the tribute to Mr. Reefer.”

Tickets for the event, to be purchased at the auditorium on Sunday afternoon, will be priced at $3. Proceeds will go to the Reefer family.

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