New orchestra directors

Lasirra Hines, Blue M Editor-in-Chief

Manhattan High introduced two new orchestra teachers this year to fill the role left by the resignation of former Orchestra director Nate McClendon. 

Cody Toll and Brett Lytle have taken over the orchestra, in addition to their roles in the middle school orchestras. Lytle teaches Symphonic Orchestra at MHS, in addition to the eighth grade orchestras at Anthony Middle School and Eisenhower Middle School and sixth grade cello and bass students at the middle schools. Toll teaches concert, symphonic and Chamber orchestra at the high school, in addition to sixth grade violin and viola and seventh grade orchestra.

Both Lytle and Toll are focused on the development and growth of the students.

“At the end of the day, success in music is created by being critical of one’s own abilities, but always being encouraged by the ultimate goal of improving those abilities,” Lytle said.

Lytle has been playing the cello since he was in the fourth grade, starting private lessons soon after. Lytle continued to have the private lessons up until this May when he finished his master’s degree.

“I’m not sure if there was ever a moment when I decided I wanted music to be my profession, that idea sort of developed naturally,” Lytle said “And by the time I was graduating high school, I knew music was what I wanted to do.”

During his work towards a bachelor’s degree, Lytle was given the opportunity to do many practicums where he would go and work with students at schools. Initially, Lytle wasn’t sure about going into the teaching pathway. He enjoyed working with students in the ensemble setting, but was still geared towards his own development as a cellist and cello teacher.

“It was only while pursuing my master’s degree in cello performance that I realized how much I missed teaching and working with young musicians, prompting me to apply for teaching jobs, ultimately getting this one,” Lytle said. “I’m happy to be back working with students.”

Lytle has previous experience working in the high school setting, as he was a student teacher and gave students private lessons; however, the position of orchestra director presented a new challenge. With teaching both middle and high school students, Lytle has to switch the way he teaches each grade.

“There was a steep learning curve the first few weeks in terms of all the other stuff that goes along with teaching the notes; How do I set the orchestra up? How do I ensure that 50 kids can get into and out of the orchestra room in a timely manner without breaking the instruments? How can I effectively take attendance? Am I explaining this concept in a way the students understand?” Lytle said. “Each grade level presents its own unique set of challenges as well, and I can’t teach eighth graders the same way I teach 10-12 grade, so being able to make a quick transition between groups has been something I’m working on as well.”