A Columbia High School graduate is returning to his alma mater to take over for a mentor.
Kristian Avise-Rouse, a 2016 CHS graduate, is succeeding Craig Ryterski as music director now that the latter man is retired.
“There is a sense of normalcy coming back to something you know,” Avise-Rouse said. “It’s never easy taking over as a band director because there are so many traditions you don’t know, so I think my experience will help with that.”
After graduating from Columbia, Avise-Rouse attended Illinois Wesleyan University with plans to major in biology en route to going into medicine.
But, within a year, he changed course.
“Freshman year was really tough not being in music because that was really all I did in high school,” Avise-Rouse said. “I was lucky enough to go to a school that had a really great science program and a really great music program, and I was able to change programs my sophomore year and still graduate in four years.”
Once he earned his bachelor’s in music education, graduating cum laude, Avise-Rouse took over as the junior high school band director and chorus teacher in the Pinckneyville School District.
“It was really awesome,” Avise-Rouse said of that experience. “I’m glad that I had that experience there.”
In that role, Avise-Rouse was taking over for a recently departed longtime teacher – much like he will be in Columbia.
He said that experience should prove helpful as the successor to Ryterski.
“You’re following a legend,” Avise-Rouse acknowledged. “You want to maintain their success and also make the program your own.”
As one of Ryterski’s former students, Avise-Rouse said he is quite familiar with the success of Columbia’s music program.
“I’ve had a lot of great music teachers in my life in the Columbia School District and in extracurricular activities. Mr. Ryterski was a big influence on me. He really built a great program,” he said.
Avise-Rouse will soon begin putting his own touch on the program as he prepares for August band camps.
He said he has “a lot of new ideas” about features to add to the program and ways to grow it, but his main goal will be “getting to know where the students are at.”
“These last two years have been monumentally difficult for them,” Avise-Rouse noted. “They’ve lost a lot of time in the classroom, and I’m sure that’s affected their playing and reading.”