Teacher makes a sweet sound at North Summit
Ever since college, Steven Hunter has wanted to mold young musicians and help them discover the beauty in a crisply hit note or a perfect harmony.
He just never imagined himself doing it at a high school.
Hunter, who has been the North Summit High School band teacher for four years, had long harbored aspirations of being a college music professor. But when he finished his own schooling, the country was in the depths of the recession, meaning jobs in higher education were few and far between. So after spending time as an adjunct professor for Brigham Young University, Snow College and Utah Valley University, he began looking at high school openings to find a more permanent position.
North Summit proved to be a good fit for Hunter, who is also a professional trombonist and plays with Ballet West, the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Utah Wind Symphony.
"It was kind of tough, because I needed a job where I could go and still keep my work as a professional musician," he said. "North Summit was a great opportunity because it’s so close to the Wasatch Front, but they don’t have a marching band program and are small enough that I can take off weeknights. A lot of the bigger jobs wouldn’t have worked for me because I wouldn’t be able to keep playing."
At North Summit, Hunter has found there is much joy in teaching inexperienced musicians. As an adjunct professor, he would watch talented students make slow and steady progress over the course of several months. But in high school, the students get better much more quickly.
"It’s a lot of fun," he said. "In a lot of ways, I see a lot more immediate impact than I did when I was teaching for college because they were already advanced when they got to college. So that’s a lot more of just changing small things. But with these students, you can see vast improvement from day to day. It’s really rewarding from that aspect."
Hunter brings a wealth of experience and knowledge into the classroom. In addition to his ongoing professional career, he studied among music’s best and brightest at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City from 2005 to 2007.
Being a musician in the cultural center of the world was a whirlwind for Hunter, who grew up in Hyrum.
"We were broke, couldn’t hardly afford rent," said Hunter, who earned his Master’s Degree at the Manhattan School of Music. "But to be able to be in that kind of environment was amazing. All the greatest musicians in the world go there. If they’re not there already, they at least go through New York. I was able to see incredible things and work with incredible people."
Hunter’s surroundings also made him push himself harder as a musician. He was one of the few students at the school who didn’t come from a wealthy East-coast family. He had to show he belonged.
"At first it was terrifying," he said. "I felt like there was extreme pressure. I felt like I had to prove something."
These days, Hunter has little to prove. He goes to work with a simple goal, and it has nothing to do with developing musicians who will go on to play in college or professionally. Rather, his only hope is to impart an appreciation of music to his students.
"What I’m interested in is producing lifelong music lovers," Hunter said. "However, that is, whether they enjoy some really popular genre or something more classical. I just want to help them understand that music is a lifelong enriching activity that doesn’t have to stop when they finish high school."
Hunter has found that seeing students develop that appreciation is a highlight of his job. After spending the first few years acclimating to being a high school band teacher, he has developed a bond with North Summit and its students. That is one of the reasons he is looking to buy a home in the community and sees himself staying in Coalville for a while. Fulfilling his dream of becoming a university music professor can wait.
"For now, I think we’re pretty content," he said. "This is a great environment for my family. For the first couple of years, there were some days I found myself looking through employment adds, but the longer we’re here, the more we want to stay."
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