Carmel Valley Middle School music program flourishes

By Karen Billing

It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving break and Carmel Valley Middle School music teacher Scott Drechsel is trying to “bottle lightning.” With vacation on the verge, his band students were amped, a flurry of notes flying out of their instruments as they warmed up and practiced.

With a raise of his hand, all eyes go to him and the lightning is captured as Drechsel leads the seventh- and eighth-graders through a run-through of a spicy, upbeat number from “Carmen.” The group finishes the song strong, all together and in tune.

“Do you hear how cool that sounds?” Drechsel asked.

In his second year at CVMS, Drechsel feels lucky to have such a great job at a middle school that boasts eight bands and orchestras, from beginning band to the Bobcat Orchestra. They even have a dedicated jazz band that meets during “zero period” before school.

On this Friday he was working with his Wind Ensemble, which Drechsel considers his top group — he has them playing like a high school band, he said.

“We run a really solid program here, my expectations are extremely high,” said Drechsel, who has a degree in jazz studies and music education and still performs on his own time playing the tenor saxophone.

With all of his groups, he always selects pieces that are a degree of difficulty above their level to challenge them. Students are relied on to practice on their own time and are tested with regularity — they do earn a letter grade in band.

But Drechsel said students get a lot more from band than just a passing mark.

“In today’s world it’s all about instant gratification for them. With an instrument, you don’t just pick it up and play. It takes time, patience and dedication,” Drechsel said.

The students work hard toward a goal — a successful performance — and they have something to show for all the work they’ve put in.

“It’s like a painting that’s not yet finished but when they get to the concert they show off the finished product and they’re proud of it,” Drechsel said.

Winter concerts are upcoming: On Dec. 6 at 6 p.m., the Bobcat Orchestra, Intermediate Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra will perform. On Dec. 7 at 6 p.m., the Bobcat Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble will hold their concert.

His Wind Ensemble has a familial feel in class — they laugh and have fun, encourage each other when they are having trouble and root for each other’s successes. When they perform a song well in practice, they erupt into cheers.

While Drechsel has built a fun relationship with the kids, he also commands their respect.

“When I disapprove, the kids know it, when I’m happy, they appreciate it. They earn their compliments, ” Drechsel said. “They’re great kids. I’m blessed to be working at a school like this with a music program that is so extensive.”

Drechsel said he leans a lot on his parent booster group that is incredibly supportive.

“They do a great job, I would not be able to do this on my own,” Drechsel said.

As music programs are very expensive to run, they are usually among the first slice when cuts need to be made. The CVMS Music Boosters ensures that there is always music at the school, holding various fundraisers throughout the year.

To learn more about the music program or boosters, visit