Mrs. Kahn With the Greater Latrobe Senior High

Alli Himler, Staff Writer

The Greater Latrobe School District focuses on and takes great pride in academics, athletics, and the arts. None of these would be possible without the indescribable talent of the staff and faculty who are the firm foundation that the students of Greater Latrobe stand upon. Over the summer, Mrs. Rachel G. Kahn, Director of the Choral Department, has come to the conclusion that it is time to move on from her position at Greater Latrobe School District after six years of profound dedication to the choral department.

Mrs. Kahn has always had a passion for the musical arts, and in pursuit of that passion, she attended two excellent universities: Temple University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, and the University of Southern California where she earned her Master’s degree in Music.  She recalls some of her most valuable learning experiences came from directing on a college level with the assistance of her mentors and professors, which explains her persistent excellence.

Mrs. Kahn had only been teaching one year prior to coming to GLSD, where she consistently brings ideas and an amount of talent to the table. She began her employment journey at Keith Valley Middle School outside of Philadelphia, and made a similar decision to the one she made this past summer; that it was time to move on to grow a little more.  

Mrs. Kahn stated, “As professionals, we are always taking on new projects and doing things that help us grow as individuals in addition to helping our students grow. I felt like I have done a lot for the Greater Latrobe Choral Department, and where we are now is incredible growth in comparison to where I started. I was fortunate to inherit a really fantastic program from the prior director. He did a great job, and I just kept marching it forward.” Simply put, she sees the impact she has made in Latrobe but feels that everyone has gained the best of available information, and now it’s time for everyone to learn alongside someone new.

To her current students’ surprise, Mrs. Kahn will be moving on to work in a middle school setting, David E. Williams Middle School, another public school which is in the Montour School District. 

Because of her professional demeanor, many students questioned this decision, knowing that younger teens can be particularly difficult to work with, yet she is optimistic about the opportunity at hand. 

Mrs. Kahn said, “I’m excited for the new adventure of working with voices from a different age group and learning how to work with middle school students again, and all of the challenges and excitement that come along with that.” 

She added, “I love teaching high school because we can make music on a rather advanced level…when students are in high school, you can only achieve certain things that they’ve [students] already been prepared for …what can those students achieve if I’m preparing them at a younger age?” 

She plans to pursue this concept fervently to see just what she can do to instill those necessary techniques earlier into the minds of young musicians. She’s hoping to eventually work her way into an elementary setting to imprint specific choral techniques in the youngest students possible.

Mrs. Kahn first came to work for the Greater Latrobe School District in the fall of 2013, and something even more specific stands out about this time in her heart. Around then, she was working with the Freshman Choir (a notably rowdy bunch) on a difficult SATB Latin piece called “Veni Veni Emmanuel.” She was challenged with only 35-40 voices to work with. 

The boys’ voices hadn’t settled yet, and the girls were still getting used to singing separately from each other. Mrs. Kahn said, “I will never forget the first time we sang through this piece completely acapella.” They sang with absolutely no help from the piano, but their rhythm, pitch, pronunciation, tone, color, it was all perfect. “I remember as soon as we cut off I just held the silence for a moment, and I just watched these huge smiles spread across everyone’s face…” When she finally let her hands down, the room erupted into mayhem. 

She recalls the feeling of achievement that they all felt at this moment. It was such an impactful experience that those seniors asked if they could close out their time at Greater Latrobe with that same song for the December concert. She said, “That was such a pivotal moment in their choral experience, so we bookended their years of high school with that. That will stay with me forever.” 

There have been so many improvements made to the department since the fall of 2013, such as the Chamber Choir being blindly selected to perform at the 2019 PMEA Conference, as well as watching the general choir numbers grow each year to the next. But beyond logistical achievements, Mrs. Kahn is most proud of the sense of community and family that everyone has worked together to create. 

Although students of the Choral department have had time to make their peace with this big upcoming change, many are devastated to lose such an excellent teacher. 

Zac Carroll, a senior chamber choir student with four years of choir under his belt,  is particularly upset. He said, “You see, Kahn Dog and I, we go way back. Once you get past her demanding demeanor, she overall is a really great person who knows what she’s doing, and she’s a really professional teacher. I personally… I’m still really bummed out. Me in particular, I really don’t want her to go because she’s taught me a lot about music and about myself.” 

Others have the same opinions and agree that they will deeply miss her.  Mya Ortiz, a sophomore in concert choir, also recalls the moment she first heard about the upcoming change.“I almost cried… I’m going to miss how laid back she is. She’s actually really cool and calm… she has the utmost priority for you and that’s one of my favorite things… and her teaching, it’s SO nice because she helps us do our very best.” 

Mrs. Kahn has impacted the lives of many students with her valuable life lessons. Zac Carroll recalled the most prominent lesson she’s taught him. “Last year towards the end of the school year, I had a massive track meet coming up and I kinda told her last minute that I was going to be missing our concert.” They proceeded to have a heart to heart. “She taught me a big lesson in letting a person feel. She said that It’s gonna hurt just like ripping off a bandaid, but to present such information at an earlier date is more important than giving it last minute.” 

He learned the importance of being upfront with someone, even with the consequences and shame at risk. “I now see how that’s such an important skill,” he added, “I ended up not going to that meet and attending the concert, and It was a really great concert and performance.” He concludes his story by saying, “She’s just more than a teacher,  she’s a really great friend and a really great person.”

Mrs. Kahn would like her students to look forward to what the new choral director will do for the choirs, and to understand that different is not the same as bad. “I am really excited to see where the new director takes the program, and I know that all of the students will remain open-minded and embrace the new director, and recognize that things that are different from what I do are just that, and there’s no right or wrong. I’m really excited to return for performances throughout the year.” 

As Zac Carroll wisely stated, “Change is part of life, and I respect her decision and I know that this is what she wants to do. As a friend, I respect and support just that.”

          Finding a director with the professionalism of Mrs. Kahn has been underway. On Friday, Sept. 27, the Chamber Choir assisted in the interview process of the new director, and they were excused from the first three sets of the day to attend. They had the opportunity to work with three potential directors on a challenging piece titled Contre Qui Rose and have a group discussion with the administration about their thoughts about the directing. All of the choirs are on the edge of their seats to hear who was chosen.

Over the past six years, Greater Latrobe has truly been so lucky to have experienced the works of Mrs. Rachel Kahn, and her impact will affect students for years to come. As Mrs. Kahn would always say, “Go forth and be brilliant!”