Making Music

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students at 92130’s Carmel Valley Middle School (CVMS) and Pacific Trails Middle School (PTMS) are developing important skills through the band and orchestra programs. Students learn self-discipline, time management, teamwork, and confidence by making music with their peers and performing at music festivals and concerts. Join our conversation with music directors Scott Drechsel and Chris Johnson to learn more about how these local music programs are thriving.

Q&A with CVMS Band and Orchestra Director Scott Drechsel

cv_middleschoolband3What music classes and programs do you teach?
Currently, I am the sole music educator at Carmel Valley Middle School. I currently teach Beginning Band, Intermediate Band, Advanced Band, Beginning/Intermediate Orchestra, Advanced Orchestra, and a Jazz Band that meets twice a week during our 30-minute study period and lunch.

What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at CVMS?
I have been studying music privately since the fifth grade. I have a degree in jazz studies performance as well as music education. I currently hold a single subject credential in music and an administrative credential. I have also earned a master’s degree in education administration.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your role?
Well, after teaching for 10 years, I can honestly say that when a student enters my music program compared to the time they leave for high school, a transformation occurs. Students become not only better musicians but better people. Many students blossom and become much more comfortable with themselves. Students learn self-discipline and time management through my courses and the classic lesson that hard work and practice do pay off.



Name: Scott Drechsel
Profession: Music Educator
Community: Encinitas
Education: I have a degree in jazz studies performance and music education from California State University, Northridge (which is a top music school in the country and the world). I have earned my teaching credential in music from Cal State Northridge and I have earned my education administrative credential through Cal State San Marcos. I also hold a master’s degree in education administration from Cal State San Marcos.
Family: I am married. My wife’s name is Stacie and we are expecting our first child in July! Exciting times. We are both from the Northern Los Angeles area.
Hobbies and Interests: I like to go on walks and hikes with my wife. I also like to go running if I can. I enjoy practicing many different instruments. I love going to concerts and supporting the arts.
Favorite Local Spots: Starbucks Coffee, Chipotle, Honey’s Bistro Cafe, and Thai Pan


How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
The CVMS music program has been the powerhouse of middle school music education in the San Dieguito Union High School District over the last 20 years. The CVMS music program has consistently been awarded Unanimous Superior Ratings for their performances at the Southern California Band and Orchestra Association Festivals. The CVMS music program has also consistently received “Gold” Ratings from the Forum Music Festivals each year in attendance.


Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at CVMS?
I have had many great memories from my time at CVMS, and not just musically. If I just talked about my amazing musical experiences at CVMS I could go on forever. I’ve had students surprise me near the end of a school year with a bound book that included my sayings and life lessons throughout the year. I’ve had students also present me with a bound book of experiences that they had while in my class. I think I get the most joy in life when I learn that past students are successful and go off to college with a deep appreciation for music and culture.


How many performances do you put on a year?
We put on about five or six concerts. We put on coffee concerts in which the CVMS Music Boosters provide coffee to the parents and the parents get to listen to what their students have learned in class. We then have our formal concerts with our Winter and Spring Concerts. We also have all of our festival performances and graduation/promotion performances. We also put on special performances. This year the Advanced Band played the National Anthem on the ice at a San Diego Gulls Game!


How can the community support the CVMS music program?
The community can support the music program at CVMS by letting the administration know that their student’s education is not complete without a music education. The community is very welcome to come to the main concerts, which are the Winter (held in December) and Spring Concerts (held in June). Many studies have shown a positive correlation between academic achievement and music performance. A music education will provide a student with positive study habits, self-discipline, and peers who are like-minded. To find out when the CVMS music program is performing next, one can visit the CVMS homepage and view the calendar.


Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Your child’s music education is a necessary part of their education. Please take advantage of the benefits that your student will gain from a music education. Thank you for your support! We look forward to seeing you at our next concert!

Q&A with PTMS Band and Orchestra Director Chris Johnson

cv_middleschoolband14What music classes and programs do you teach?
At Pacific Trails Middle School, I teach 7th and 8th Grade Band and Orchestra. My band and orchestra classes have students who range from beginners to advanced skill levels. We hire professional musicians called Artists in Residence to help us with the mixed levels. We also offer a choir class called Vocal Performance, which is taught by Renee Mitchell. I also teach Symphonic Band at Canyon Crest Academy.

What is your professional background? How long have you been teaching at PTMS?
I grew up in Hawaii on the island of Oahu from the age of six. I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa where I earned a Bachelor’s of Music, and then a post bachelor’s degree in music education. I taught high school band in Hawaii for 15 years, and then I moved to San Diego about four years ago. This is my fourth year teaching at Pacific Trails Middle School. I started here when the school first opened.



Name: Julian “Chris” Johnson
Profession: Music Teacher
Community: Rancho Bernardo
Education: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Family: Married to Shawna Johnson, FNP; Kids – Joshua (12), Caleb (10), and Julia (5)
Hobbies and Interests: Performing music (saxophone, clarinet, flute), photography, fishing, diving, golfing, camping with the Boy Scouts, going to Joshua’s baseball games and band concerts, going to Caleb’s soccer games and orchestra concerts, and going to Julia’s dance recitals
Favorite Local Spots: Baked Bear, Luna Grill, Chipotle, Fresh Brother’s Pizza, Annie’s Canyon Trail, Torrey Pines State Beach, and Petco Park (go Padres!)


What has been the most rewarding aspect of your role? The most challenging?
I really love teaching music. Every day is rewarding. I often feel guilty that I have so much fun at work while other people have to work “real jobs.” I like seeing students improve throughout the year and I like to watch them get excited about the music they play, especially after a performance.

It can be difficult to deal with some of the daily challenges. I get a lot of, “Mr. Johnson, my instrument doesn’t work,” or “My mouthpiece is stuck,” or “My viola string broke,” or “I can’t find my music.” I’m always repairing instruments or equipment, but it’s important to me that my students don’t have to go for days or weeks without their instrument while it gets repaired at a shop.


How has the program grown or evolved over the years?
When we first opened Pacific Trails four years ago, we had a small band of 22 students. We were able to start a vocal performance class and an orchestra class in our second year. Now we have two band classes, an orchestra class, and vocal performance class. Our music program is growing and thriving.


Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at PTMS?
Every year we take all the music students to a music festival where they perform in front of judges for commentary on ways we can improve. After the festival we go to some place fun, like Disneyland. One year, we took them on an overnight trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, Medieval Times, and Disneyland. It’s a lot of work, but I always have a good time. The students are usually really proud of their performance at the festival and it’s great when we get to relax at a place like Disneyland.


How many performances do you put on a year?
We usually perform at Padre’s Band Night, at the Del Mar Highlands Shopping Center for their winter festival, we do coffee concerts for the parents during school, lunch concerts for our students, concerts for our nearby elementary schools, we perform at a music festival, and we have two large Art’s Night concerts in January and June. Students also have opportunities to audition and perform with honor groups like All State, All Southern, All District (SDUHSD), and All County honor band and orchestra.


How can the community support the PTMS music program?
We have a PTMS Music Foundation that helps us to raise money for musical instruments, sheet music, uniforms, and Artists in Residence who come in to help teach. If anyone has instruments that they’d like to donate, like violins, cellos, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, or other band or orchestra instruments, we’d love to have them. We’d also love monetary donations.

Our PTMS Music Foundation website is at

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It’s really nice to see what an amazing role music can have in a student’s life, and it’s nice to see students continue music throughout high school and college. When I was in college, our band was filled with engineers and pre-med students. Less than a quarter of the band students were music majors. We all need music in our lives. As Louis Armstrong put it, “Music is life itself…”