Mr. Dahlen: ‘Music is my life’

Staff Features on the Music Department


Ombeni Goss

Band director Mr. Kory Dahlen holds a crushed saxophone outside of the school

Our Concert Band Director, Mr. Dahlen, has been a wonderful asset to Westby. He said that it was during the first week of 6th-grade band that he decided to be a band director. It was his second week of band that he decided to teach band at Westby. As to why, he said, “I’ve always been proud of the program that inspired me to be a good musician and to love music so much -that it was my life goal to call band ‘home,’ and hopefully do the same for others.” It’s his thirteenth year teaching at Westby, but he taught at Melrose-Mindoro for seven years prior. Mr. Dahlen always says that he loves band, but every time he does he really means it. He explained, “Band is all I know. So many things happen in band beyond learning how to play an instrument: teamwork, self-confidence, empathy, respect, personal and group responsibility.. So many great memories are created.”

Everything changes through the years, even teaching. But there’s two factors involved in that, the teacher and the kids. How the kids respond to your assignments is just as important as how the teacher hands them out. Mr. Dahlen has said that he had to change how our lessons are structured because of the lack of kids bringing their instruments home as the years pass. He also had to change how our music is distributed throughout the year and how rehearsals are done. He did say, “What has not changed is how many students still love playing in band!”

Teachers also had to optimize their teaching with computers but the real testament was COVID-19 in 2020. Not only did Mr. Dahlen have to deal with kids being online, but also he had to worry about the mask mandates and the social distancing in school. He stayed structured through E-Learning and the lockdowns. He commented that Westby did a great job persevering and that we were lucky to be able to start playing sooner than other schools.

Mr. Dahlen, has an optimistic look on the future of Westby’s band, “I think the future is bright because we have a lot of great young musicians and that’s exciting. Don’t get me wrong- our upperclassmen are always great- but we have a really great group right now. There’s all this talk about school enrollment going down, which is scary, but I know we have wonderful young musicians which, yeah, is exciting!”

Student art of the band director telling students to practice
Artistic rendition of Mr. Kory Dahlen requests students practice. (Jade Levendoski)

Mr. Dahlen has always had a strong connection with our school, and our school’s band. His favorite classes in high school were band and choir. “Music is my life, it’s the social part of these two rooms and the safety of these rooms. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a choir director as well, but some things pulled me and now I’m where I should be.” He’s someone who knows what he’s doing and is there to be someone that kids can depend on.

Westby is lucky to have someone as passionate and talented as Mr. Dahlen. He’s confident in his abilities to play eight instruments, but he can play any band instrument with a bit of warming up. When asked what instrument he would be he said, “I don’t think it’s because I’m holding it, but I think a ukulele because it makes people happy,” which fits him very well because he puts everyone around him in a good mood!