Middle School Alumni Return To Make Music

Mar 28, 2014

Some people might prefer to forget middle school. But for many graduates of Rutland Town Elementary, middle school was the first time they picked up a trumpet, trombone or drum sticks. And many have wonderful memories of playing with the school band, so much so that dozens of Rutland Town alumni come back to the school every year at this time to make music together again.

About twenty alumni will raise their instruments Friday evening at this year’s Jazz Bistro concert at the Rutland Town School.

At a recent rehearsal, Proctor resident Rachel Fillioe set down her saxophone to belt out a solo while more than a dozen fellow alumni backed her up. Fillioe graduated from Rutland Town Elementary School in 2006 and says playing in the band room again is a kick. “It’s like a flashback. It like makes me feel young again and it just brings back a part of me that I sometimes lose in daily life.”

It's like a flashback. It makes me feel young again and it just brings back a part of me that I sometimes lose in daily life. - Rutland Town School Alumna Rachel Fillioe

Over in the trombone section, 29-year old Tracey Stubbins nods. She lives in Pittsford now, but graduated from Rutland Town in 1999. “I’ve played music all along,” says Stubbins, “but this is the first year I’ve come back for a bistro.”

The annual Jazz Bistro is a fundraiser for the school’s music department and was started 21-years ago by the late Rita Coughenour, a long time music teacher at the school. 

Stubbins says it was Coughenour who first encouraged her to play an instrument. “She’s impacted so many students throughout the years and many who are still playing music because of what she instilled in them,” she says.

Those include former students like Kristen Chapman and Dan Alcorn, self- described band geeks who graduated from Rutland Town School in the early 1990s. “We’re like family,” says Chapman. “It’s like time hasn’t gone by at all. It’s awesome.”

During the rehearsal, Chapman and the others in the band joke and tease one another much like they did when they were 13. “Oh yeah, even more so now 'cause we’re not shy any more,” laughs Chapman.

Dan Alcorn sets down his saxophone and says: “For me, I have two little girls now, so it’s neat to have them be able to see something that I used to do... or rather still do.”

“I moved back to Vermont four years ago,” says Alcorn. "And I thought it was a neat way to reconnect with the school and it’s one of the few things you can do as an adult.” He laughs and shakes his head. “I mean I played baseball for Rutland Town, but I think I would kill myself  if I tried to do it today.” But Alcorn says: “We can all come back in the band, have a good time and interact with the kids who are here now as well as the kids I graduated with.  It’s a lot of fun.”

About 100 people usually attend the Jazz Bistro, which features performances by 35 current students as well as the alumni band. It’s held in the school gymnasium, which is transformed for the evening with tables, candlelight and refreshments.

Glendon Ingalls has taught music at Rutland town School for 11 years, and says his predecessor Rita Coughenour was a dear friend of his. Continuing the event she started is both emotional and powerful. Ingalls says he’s touched by how many former students come back and how much that inspires the kids he’s teaching now.

“For our grand finale we’re going to do a special New Orleans jazz arrangement that will feature them all together,” says Ingalls. “So we’ll have some interaction, probably the youngest is 10 and I won’t say how old the oldest is (laughs) but older than I am and I’ve been teaching for 38 years!”

This year’s Jazz Bistro will be held at the Rutland Town School Friday beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 in advance or $8 at the door. You can reserve them by calling the Rutland Town School at 775-0566.