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Artist of the Month - April 2018

Written By Jim T. Gammill
Arts Council Menifee

Richard Kettner’s relationship with music started at a very young age. He wasn’t raised in a musical family and is the youngest of five children. Kettner remembers experimenting with a keyboard for the first time as a child and found himself instantly drawn to the world of music.

Kettner, the Artist of the Month for April as selected by Arts Council Menifee, remembers it vividly.

“It was like in the movie, August Rush,” Kettner reflects and then elaborates on one of his favorite themes from the film: “I could hear music everywhere, maybe not as much as the character in the movie, but in the grass, the wind, everywhere. To a non-musician it may sound a little strange, but for me I do feel like music is all around. Anytime I would see anybody playing an instrument I was immediately drawn to it and it just felt like magic.”

Kettner began playing drums on cookie sheets and cardboard boxes and took to it naturally, he got a snare drum and a cymbal as a gift and really started to excel as he built off of that kit. It was around fourth or fifth grade that Kettner started to play trumpet in the school band and music continued to become a large part of his life.

When it came time to buy a “real” drum set, he realized how expensive it would be to get the set he wanted, so he ended up taking up the guitar, which he played in several rock bands.

After high school, Kettner joined the Marine Corps. Upon completion of basic training at Perris Island, he was sent to the Naval School of Music in Little Creek, Virginia. The program consisted of a grueling six-month crash course designed to prepare Kettner and other musicians from all branches of the armed forces for a career in music. Kettner began with trumpet and eventually transitioned to the French Horn and jazz guitar.

After being assigned to 29 Palms, Kettner and his bandmates found themselves being transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was there that Kettner attended Loyola University, first as a jazz major and then as a musical education major, in which he received his BME degree.

“When I was in high school, I wanted to be a music teacher, but after the Marine Corps I decided to play music for a living. Then when I got to school, I saw the totality of what it would take to be a full-time jazz musician. I was already playing the French Horn, so it was fairly easy to transition into musical education. The program produced many stellar professional musicians, but also offered the option to teach in addition,” he said.

After college, Kettner had the opportunity to play professionally in Jubilation, a showband whose extensive playlist covered over four decades of popular music.

Kettner saw many things while playing with Jubilation; he saw what the life of a full-time musician had to offer and some of the things that the highly talented musicians around him would play just to get gigs. Kettner began to think that it was time to take advantage of his teaching degree.

In New Orleans, Kettner got a teaching job at a private school and when it didn’t pan out, the Kettner family decided to move to California. Kettner taught in Beaumont for two years and then moved on to Moreno Valley. While teaching there, he decided to go back to school and earned a Master’s degree in education at the University of Redlands. A little over a decade later, Kettner and his family landed in Menifee.

Kettner has taught music in the Menifee Union School District for nearly 20 years. His employment with the district started at Menifee Valley Middle School, where he worked for three years. Kettner was then chosen to run the music program at Bell Mountain Middle School when it opened over 16 years ago. He plans to retire from his position at Bell Mountain at the end of this school year. He also has a position as an adjunct professorship at Mt. San Jacinto College.

When asked what he is most proud of in his career, the artist responded, “getting the kids into music, showing them that there is a whole world of music here and it is totally available to them. Some kids might be afraid to take the chance on music if they don’t come from a musical family. If I hadn’t taken that chance myself to play an instrument I would have missed out on so many great opportunities.”

Kettner’s ability to pass his wisdom onto generations of students is apparent when looking at the achievements of Bell Mountain Middle School’s current band line-up. The student musicians were recently recognized with a ‘superior’ rating in both performance and sight reading at this year’s Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association music festival.

Richard Kettner’s passion for music, education and helping young people discover their own musical talent has made him an integral part of the community.

Arts Council Menifee is proud to name Richard Kettner as April’s artist of the month.

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