Custer High welcomes new music director

There’s a new director — Jacoby Holte — wielding the baton for the Custer County District High School (CCDHS) choirs.

Holte graduated from Poplar High School in 2011 and continued on to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota to pursue a business degree. 

He says he soon discovered that business wasn’t for him and switched to his true passion —  music. While in college he preformed with the University of Jamestown Choir.

Perhaps it was destiny? Holte grew up surrounded by music. Both of his parents are music teachers in Poplar. His mother teaches at the elementary-school level, and his father teaches grades 5-12. 

According to Holte, without realizing it, his parents influenced his decision to become a music teacher. 

“I didn’t consider teaching, I didn’t really want to teach,” says Holte. “When you’re 18 years old you’re not thinking of ‘what am I passionate about,’ you’re thinking of ‘how can I live, how can I pay for things and make money.’”

In the end it was a combination of his parents and his music professors that steered him toward music.. Now he says he loves it and can’t imagine doing anything else. 

After graduating with a music education degree with vocal training he began searching for open positions. 

According to Holte, he knew about Miles City’s music program which currently consists of 175 students, because he attended the same State Music Festival in Billings as the Custer choir. So when the job became available he  says he decided that he “might as well try because it doesn’t hurt anything to send in an application.”

Holte says he never thought he would begin his career as a high school music director because those jobs are very competitive across the state. According to Holte, he thought he would instead be teaching K-12 or junior high band and choir somewhere. 

Holte says he always wanted to be a high school music teacher.

“I love the things you can talk about. Elementary is so vital to what we do at a high school level and in college your elementary and middle school education sets you up for success,” says Holte. “But I just love being able to take a piece of music and delve into it, to the really deep intricate details.”

According to Holte, he likes to have his students connect music to the rest of their lives.

“Music speaks to humans on such a deep level and I love being able to do that with students. And for us as a group to talk about some internal emotions and put those into our performances,” says Holte. “That is extremely advanced. We have to allow ourselves to strip away the outer walls that we’ve built and to really portray our true selves and be OK with being exposed to an audience.”

While Holte says he works well under pressure he does notice that as the “new guy on the block” that people are nervous and unsure about him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had any problems living through pressure. I definitely do better when there’s pressure. That pressure drives me. I look at it as here is where Miles City is, and this is where we’re going,” Holte said as he discussed how he wants to push the school’s various choirs to new levels.

According to Holte, he’s hoping that the choirs’ first concert last month helped settle some of the worries throughout the community after last year, when the previous choir director was placed on administrative leave after one semester on the job. Accompanist Joyce Vera filled in until Holte was hired.

“I’m very thankful for Joyce Vera and the rest of the music faculty that have been supportive of me. And Joyce did a great job last year when she took over as the choir director. She was able to rebuild very quickly what had started to fall apart,” said Holte. “Without her it would’ve been a bigger mess than it was coming back. The program itself was still intact and successful.”

According to Holte, every successful program hits bumps in the road but it’s all about how they come back from them. 

“The community was hesitant and nervous and the students as well. We’re in an excellent place. I think that’s something the community can get excited about and be proud of,” says Holte.

Holte says he was approached after that first concert by several members of the community who told him they were now excited about this year.

According to Holte, after the marvelous performances at the first concert, the choirs are now gearing up for their next performances.

Chorale is preparing for the Madrigal Dinner on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 28-29. The Madrigal Dinner is a medieval-themed dinner and show. 

The other choirs are preparing for the holiday concert on Monday, Dec. 12. 

According to Holte, the different choirs work hard every day. His goal for this year is for each choir to receive a superior rating in performance and sight reading at music festival and to create well-rounded musicians. 

The choirs will continue to work on the fine details of music and sight reading, and to fine-tune their sound. 

“I’m over the moon with all the choirs,” says Holte.