People in The News

Middle School Band/Chorus Teacher Alicia Rockenhauser Wins Statewide Award
By Leslie O’Donnell   8-13-18

Alicia Rockenhauser recalls that when she was in high school at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, she had a “really awesome” band director.  “I was a saxophone player and she asked me to try the oboe, and I loved it,” she said.  “She made school really fun for me, and I wanted to be like her – I wanted to do that for my own students.”

Rockenhauser went on to major in oboe performance and music education at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., and is starting her fifth year as band and chorus teacher at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School in Raymond. This summer she received the New Hampshire Outstanding Young Band Director of the Year award for 2018 from the New Hampshire Band Directors Association. 

Rockenhauser, who was raised in Derry and lives in Manchester, began her career as a substitute teacher and part-time elementary school music teacher in Derry, then taught middle school music in Franklin before coming to Raymond, where she teaches band and chorus. She said she was the Raymond school’s third band and chorus teacher in three years, and the number of students enrolled in those classes was low when she arrived.

Her first year in town, the master schedule for the middle school changed so that band and chorus were classes on their own, rather than requiring students to leave another class to participate. And the consistency of having the same music teacher each year helped increase participation, she said.

Those numbers have been steadily building, and that has fed into increasing numbers for the high school band and chorus as well.  When she started, the high school band had 30 students, she said, and next year, it is expected to have 75.

Randy LaCasse, band director at Raymond High School, calls Rockenhauser one of the key figures in getting students started in music and keeping them involved.

“Last year the band and chorus at the middle school had 188 students, about half the school,” Rockenhauser said. “When I started, we had about 120. This year, the eighth grade band had 37 students. The past couple of years have been awesome.”

Band starts in fifth grade, although students learn the recorder in elementary school. Chorus begins in elementary school as well. Rockenhauser said the vast majority of students continue with band after their first year.

Although Rockenhauser knew her name had been submitted for the statewide award, she did not know she had won until it was announced at a schoolwide Rams Rally assembly, which celebrates student and teacher successes. “(Principal) Mr. (Bob) Bickford announced it in front of the whole school,” she said. “It was really cool.”

The award itself was presented at a banquet at the New England Band Directors Institute in Plymouth, NH in July. The Young Band Director Award is for teachers with less than 10 years in the classroom.


Alicia Rockenhauser


Pictured with Alicia Rockenhauser, winner of the New Hampshire Outstanding Young Band Director award for 2018, are, from left, Iber Holmes Gove Middle School Principal Bob Bickford; Rick Cook; Alicia's father, Mike Rockenhauser; Lamprey River Elementary School music teacher Alison LaCasse; and Raymond High School music teacher Randy LaCasse.


The nomination letter, written by Rockenhauser’s peers on the Unified Arts team at the middle school, calls her a “phenomenal teacher….Miss Rockenhauser’s contagious enthusiasm is inspiring for students.  She leads by example in that not only has she mastered a variety of instruments, but she also hones her musical skills as a member of various orchestral and other groups…Additionally, she is asked to adjudicate competitions. “

The letter goes on to state, “Jazz Band and Glee Club are two of her after-school offerings and individual and small group lessons are offered during her lunch break. Parades and fundraising dances are two more examples of Alicia’s volunteerism. A great accomplishment for Miss Rockenhauser and her middle school band was having the band compete in a New Hampshire band competition. Not only did the majority of her band members willingly give up a Saturday, they achieved a high score and were excellent representatives of our school.

“Miss Rockenhauser’s students show great respect for her as clearly indicated by their participation, commitment, and superior performances,” the letter continues. “By setting high expectations and adhering to them, Alicia builds strong rapport with her students; she puts in the effort to create excellence and they respond to it.”

The letter also praised her involvement as part of the Unified Arts team at the middle school. She joined with the school’s technology education teacher to create an instrument-building project, in which students drew sketches of instruments and used engineering design techniques to build them from found objects. She hopes to do something similar this year, at the end of the year when the concerts are over.

Rockenhauser also exposes her students to music programs in the other schools in Raymond. “We do what we call monster concerts in March, one for the band, one for the chorus, that involve all three schools,” she said. Her students can participate as well in the Pops Concert each spring at the high school, something she considers to be good for the youngsters, as they are exposed to more difficult music and to community musicians.

As a middle school music teacher instructing students on their varied instruments, she said she needs to know how to play all of them, from flute to percussion. “It’s what I love,” she said. “Doctors have to know anatomy and I have to know clarinet fingering! But even as a student, I liked learning new instruments.”

She started her life in music with the saxophone, then moved to flute and finally to oboe; she played saxophone in her school’s jazz band, oboe in the concert band, and flute or piccolo in the marching band. She continues to perform in the state, and is oboist at the New Hampshire Philharmonic.

Rockenhauser said she loves teaching in Raymond. “The people I work with and the kids and their families – I’ve never seen such a supportive group,” she said. “At the end of a concert, I take a bow, take some pictures and talk with the kids and parents – and then I find that they’ve put away all the chairs for me! That does not always happen elsewhere.”

Last year, a proposal arose to cut one music teacher position in the District, and that cut would have impacted Rockenhauser, who had the least seniority. “But we had a lot of community support, and the school board thought it was a bad idea,” she said.

“I feel really lucky to be in Raymond and to have grown with the program,” she added.