While the new director of athletic bands will be a new face on the Kansas Wesleyan University campus, Chris Miertschin, Jr., is a familiar face around Salina.
Miertschin has played the horn and trombone in the Salina Community Theatre pit orchestra since 2017.
“I know the [athletic band] program is starting pretty small, but the focus first and foremost is building the numbers in the program,” he said. “The longer-term goal, for The Howl especially, is to develop it into an on-the-field band.”
Miertschin will be working with newly appointed Dr. James (Jim) McAllister, the chair of the KWU music department, to nurture the program.
“Jim and I are thinking something different than traditional marching band,” Miertschin said. “This is a chance for us to do something that you can’t find at the other schools in the state that have marching bands. We’re trying to think outside the box as we build the program, see what students are interested in and what we can do that will set this program apart.”
For four years, Miertschin was the director of bands/associate professor of music at Hutchinson Community College. During that time, he led the Blue Dragon Pep Band and String Orchestra. He also helped expand the concert experience and hosted off-campus concerts in non-traditional locations, such as the Strataca Salt Mine and Hutchinson Zoo.
He said the shift from a two-year to a four-year institution is exciting.
“You’re constantly worrying about what next year will look like because students are there for only two years,” Miertschin said. “The chance to work with students longer and have more stability with the students in the program is nice.”
Recruitment will also look different.
“Wesleyan focuses on state-wide and regional recruiting, which I think is good for the band program,” he said. “Also, Texas is prime band country. In Texas, band programs are just as serious as sports programs – you pick band or sports.”
Miertschin earned his bachelor’s at Kansas State University in Manhattan and his master’s at the University of Georgia.
“I’m looking forward to administrative support for the growth of the program,” Miertschin said. “I’m also excited about the chance to work with Jim to build this program from the ground up and trying new things.”
Story by Karen Bonar