Rabehl named Music Educator of the Year | Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools
January 24, 2024

Rabehl named Music Educator of the Year

Teaching music may not have been Scott Rabehl’s first career, but he has been recognized multiple times for excellence since he traded the business world for a podium and baton. 

In 2006 he was named the Outstanding Young Band Director for the State of Minnesota by the American School Band Directors Association. In 2018 he became the Schmitt Music Educator of the Year. And earlier this month, the Buffalo High School band director was named High School Music Educator of the Year by the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA).

When asked about the latest honor, Rabehl said he couldn’t help but think of the roles played by his fellow music teachers in Buffalo, Hanover and Montrose.

“I walk out on stage here and put my stick up and wave my arms, and I hear the instruction of all my colleagues coming back at me,” he said, explaining that the bedrock of musical excellence so often exhibited by members of the BHS Concert Band was established years before, as students benefitted from the instruction of their teachers in elementary and middle school.

“I have all these colleagues with me who are represented in my musicians,” Rabehl said. “To have my name be the one that gets called out is humbling and does not recognize, adequately, all the other people that are building the foundation for what happens here at the high school.”

On a deeper level, Rabehl said that his way as a leader in the BHS music department has been paved by his highly regarded predecessors. 

“This instrumental and vocal music program was established long before I got here,” said Rabehl. “I stand on the shoulders of giants – Lee Kjesbo, Rolf Mohwinkel, Mike Walsh, Mark Minkler – these were incredible music educators.”

Rabehl worked with Kjesbo for five years after a phone call from Kjesbo about a job opening changed the trajectory of his career from middle school to high school in 2003. When Kjesbo retired, Rabehl inherited a program that, then and now, is generally recognized in musical circles for its “gravitas” thanks to a long tradition of excellence.

“But I still think about it like it’s [Kjesbo’s] program,” Rabehl said. “I’m just kind of caretaking it for him and those who came before.”

A surprise
Rabehl was not aware he had been nominated for the honor until he received a phone call saying he had been chosen as High School Music Educator of the Year, a title he shares with a choir director from New Prague. 

“I was just really surprised,” he said. “I was not aware of it until all was said and done.”

A group of colleagues, parents and students had submitted statements on his behalf.

“That the board selected me is less of an honor to me than that these people invested some thought and energy into trying to make it happen,” Rabehl said. “I have no ideas what lies they made up about me, but it worked.”

The path to education
Rabehl attended Anoka High School, where he said he was a mediocre musician whose real skills lay in math. When he and a group of friends attended the University of Minnesota to become engineers, Rabehl joined the marching band.

“I was going to march in that band. That I knew,” he said. “That was my undergraduate music education.”

After changing his major a couple of times but still “crunching numbers,” Rabehl graduated with a degree in business, then earned his Master of Business Administration. He joined General Mills and spent four years focusing on market research before a chance musical experience at a mall changed his direction in life.

It was Christmas time, and Rabehl followed his ears through the busy hallways until he came upon a community band made up of many of his former music teachers playing carols. After the performance he inquired about the band, was invited to join, and dusted off his trumpet for the first time in years. 

“I just thought, ‘I kind of miss that in my life,’” he said.

After spending time with his former teachers, Rabehl decided he was in the wrong line of work and went back to school. He earned his degree in music education from St. Cloud State University, his master’s in education from St. Mary’s University, and landed his first job in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted district at age 30.

Two years later he shifted to Maple Grove Junior High, where he spent eight years before joining Buffalo High School. Since then he has directed a number of honor bands, been involved with various statewide music contests and initiatives, and served on the MMEA board of directors.

Toward greatness
After becoming a music educator, Rabehl never looked back.

“Every day is a better day for me than when I was in the business world,” he said. “One of the things I really appreciate about being a music teacher is that I get immediate feedback every single day about the effectiveness of my instruction. I try a thing, and it either works or it doesn’t, and I know immediately. There are not many careers that provide you with that kind of continuous feedback.”

A unique aspect of making quality music is the dual importance of technical ability and emotional investment. Rabehl said one of the most gratifying things about teaching students for four years is seeing their focus on “higher, louder, faster” change to playing with the proper expression as they mature.

“A performance that is perfectly accurate and has no feeling behind it has as little meaning as a performance filled with feeling that’s mostly errors,” he said. “You have to do both well. That’s what we work toward. I get to collaborate with my student colleagues and work toward greatness every day.”

The ultimate objective transcends music.

“I would like to be able to say I’m always teaching young people to be better humans,” Rabehl said. “I don’t know if I always hit that target, but it’s my goal.” 

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