New band director brings growth to the music program

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Amanda Smith , Staff Reporter

Sitting in his office, surrounded by Simpsons Pez dispensers and a poster about sarcasm, Christopher Werner, assistant professor of music and director of bands, shares his hopes for the future of the band program.

Werner joined the Lakeland community this fall, and he replaces former Director of Bands Russell Pettitt. One of his primary goals is to create a more interactive band program. He hopes to achieve this by bringing in composers and guest soloists.

He also desires to grow the band program enough to have two bands. Additionally, he would like to start a new class focusing on how music and film interact, in part due to his love of film scores.

Pep band is also very important to Werner, and he wants to have more performances for them.

As far as music camp goes, he believes it is part of the school’s history and plans on continuing the tradition.

“Werner will really take [what Pettitt did] to the next level in terms of quality and the opportunities that we want for students,” said Lani Knutson, visiting professor of music and director of choral activities.

Before coming to Lakeland, Werner taught band at Central high school in La Crosse for eight years. He was only the fourth band director to work at that school in a hundred years. According to Werner, music was a big part of that school, and he senses that same passion at Lakeland College.

Werner’s education includes an undergraduate degree in music from UW La Crosse, a master’s in conducting from UW Milwaukee and a doctorate of musical arts in conducting from the University of Nebraska.

He planned on being a band conductor in the Air Force until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which caused the band to take a hiatus from concert performances. By the time the Air Force Band resumed six months later, he was unable to audition and had to find a different path.

Working with college students had always been goal of his, which is why he took advantage of the opportunity at Lakeland.

According to Werner, he runs very intense rehearsals that are high energy and sets high standards for students, but he hopes they are fun at the same time.

“He’s making a positive difference already,” said Arthur Johnson, associate professor of music.

It seems that Werner’s students are pleased with his performance thus far.

“I believe Dr. Werner has been doing an exemplary job. He has been challenging the band to play difficult pieces and to listen to each other better,” said Thomas Pibal, senior music major. “He has also been challenging the band to be more efficient in rehearsals and adhere to the discipline required to play well.”

“You can definitely tell he is passionate about what he is doing. He handles the band very well and is helping the band progress to be wonderful,” said Tia Pribbernow, junior general and choral music education major.

Although directing the band is his life work, Werner loves spending time watching college football, cooking, working out, and reading (such as Malcolm Gladwell’s novels). He is a Star Trek fan and also watches the shows “Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story.”

“My [previous] students always thought I was like the college kid that never grew up. That’s not to say that my expectations are lower or that I’m silly or anything, but you can’t take yourself too seriously,” said Werner.