Behind a double door, in a room filled with music notations, Matthew Krantz conducts the Libby High School band, enthusiastically swinging his hands for students.
Krantz, or as some of his students like to call him, “King Crayons,” started his job as a full-time band director this semester.
Music is so powerful, he said.
“There is nothing like seeing a bunch of sixth graders just light up when they get their instruments,” he said.
It is so cool to hear students make their first sounds, he said.
And then “the parents hate it because they’re going home and squawking all the time,” he joked.
Krantz often tries to inspire band students. Sometimes he will play a style of music just to give them an idea of what they could create.
Working with high schoolers and middle schoolers is the best of both worlds, he said.
Krantz said he likes to think he brings a certain sense of humor to the classroom. He tries to connect with the students rather than be feared.
When joking around in class, “usually I just embarrassed myself or they don’t laugh,” he said.
But being a younger teacher has its perks. It makes it easier to relate to students on topics such as memes and pop culture, he said.
“They’ll be talking about a John Mulaney Netflix special and I’ll be [like], ‘oh yeah, I love that one,’” he said.
Krantz’s students agreed that he brings a light-hearted presence to the classroom.
Meagan Stevens, a freshman who just started the band program with Krantz, said she has learned a lot in her first year.
“He just has a really funny personality and likes to make jokes,” she said.
Krantz makes class really enjoyable, she said.
And Taryn Thompson, a freshman who has been in the band program since sixth grade, said Krantz is enthusiastic and funny as well.
“He really shows his excitement for teaching,” she said. Krantz tells students, including herself, how well they are doing.
His feedback is great and appreciated, she said. “He really shows how proud he is.”
Krantz said he aspires to be a role model for his students.
Not everyone in band needs to have a career in music, he said. But he hopes they at least keep music in their lives.
“If I could go through my career and say, ‘I was that inspiration [and] role model for one person,’ that would be pretty amazing,’” he said.
Krantz said there have been quite a few learning experiences in his first year at Libby: From forgetting to book hotel rooms for students, to picking overly complicated or simple reading materials, to some really late nights when he fell behind on grading.
There were even a few moments when there was so much work to keep track of, it became discouraging, he said.
Sometimes things work out really well, he said. And other times, not so much.
“There was a time where I was like ‘oh man, what am I doing’ — but it’s just a learning curve,” he said.
Krantz hopes to continue fixing any mistakes and learning as he teaches.
Brenda Nagode, the previous Libby band director, has been very supportive and helpful, he said.
Nagode said Krantz has not been afraid to ask for help and has really applied himself to the job.
Being a band director was overwhelming every year, she said. He is making really good progress.
“Not only is he a really fine musician, he is a great teacher,” she said. The students like him and so far, he has done well.
Krantz could probably have picked from a plethora of schools, but he chose Libby, she said. He is already getting involved with the rest of the community too.
Having someone young like Krantz come into the band program is great, she said. He has a lot of resources and training experience.
“I’ve referred to him as the young, hip dude,” she said.
Krantz said he is feeling pretty good about the job now and appreciates how patient the students have been with him.
“This is year one [of] maybe 40 years of teaching,” he said. “I mean, who knows.”