Kathryn Siphers September 12, 1924 – July 11, 1986
East Burke Band Director - 1974-1986; Drexel High Band Director – 1951-1974
Teaching is my life. I have been given one talent to use… As the student derives a certain aesthetic satisfaction, I, in turn, find a larger measure of happiness in my own life… For me, teaching is exciting. It’s an obsession, but a magnificent obsession. --- Kathryn Siphers
Kathryn Siphers was one of the most respected band directors in western North Carolina and perhaps in a much wider region. It was only natural that when it became time to select a band director for East Burke High School, her name was at the top of the list. For the first year I had the honor of being her assistant. One of the things that stands out vividly in my memory: Band members were required to report early for the football games. On one occasion two girls were the first to arrive. When they sat down with their instruments, Miss Siphers immediately sat down beside them, and together they started rehearsing a piece of music we were to perform that night. TWO STUDENTS! Every minute was valuable, and every person was important. And so it always was with Miss Siphers. --- Jim Jerome Williams, EBHS choral director, 1974-1992
I spent eight years with Kathryn Siphers as my teacher. In that amount of time, one gets to know another person pretty well. Miss Siphers was totally dedicated to the teaching of her students. She had that special quality to bring out the best in her students. She loved winning those superior ratings, but not for herself. What pleased her the most about the awards was that they represented that her students had risen to the challenge to achieve a level of musical quality that few students ever attain. It was the success of her students that motivated her to demand that each boy or girl give their best in learning to play their instrument. I always admired her even after I started my career as a band director. Her desire for excellence that she embedded in me as a student stayed with me as I tried to follow in her footsteps as a teacher. --Leonard Brendel, EBHS Director of bands, 1986-1991, stage band director, 1974-1978
Miss Siphers was certainly a guiding force for me as a young student, seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Her classes were easy to love or hate depending on the current state of our music in relation to our next performance or contest. High standards, team-building, creation, expression, analysis of our music, independent/group practice, life lessons, and character-building were all part of her everyday lessons long before Benjamin Bloom wrote his taxonomy; she convinced us we were just having fun. I often catch her looking over my shoulder at East Burke. I’d like to think that I have made her proud.
--- Jonathan Berry, EBHS Class of 1983, EBHS Director of bands: 1992-present
My memory of Kathryn Siphers is not only that of an incredible music educator, but of the way she saw our family as hers. My mother was also a student of Miss Siphers at Drexel High School. When Mama was sixteen, her mother passed, leaving my grandfather as the sole provider for three teenagers. Yet, under Miss Siphers’ tutelage, my mom always had a band uniform, baton, and money for majorette camp. My sister, Kathy, and I were in a strings program at Drexel (which was a rarity). A gifted pianist, Kathy uses her appreciation of music today as a church musician. As for me, Miss Siphers taught me to trust the artist inside. If I wanted to pursue music and theatre, these were honorable professions and needed to be respected and valued. An acting teacher of mine said these types of people in our lives are Dream Droppers. Miss Siphers was the Cozort Girls’ Dream Dropper.
---Kim Cozort Kay, EBHS Class of 1978
Of all the teachers I had through the years at both Drexel and East Burke, I would have to say that Miss Siphers was the most musically influential person in my life, and the lessons she taught me have been carried forward into my career. She was the embodiment of excellence and professionalism, and her commitment to the craft of music is unsurpassed. After leaving North Carolina to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, I took everything with me that I had learned from her and found my studies there to be much easier because of that preparation. Even now I still use all the knowledge and skill she imparted. I am forever grateful.
--Scott Oliver, EBHS Class of 1981
When I was in the fourth grade, Miss Siphers invited me to play the violin and participate in the school orchestra. As a result, she not only taught me to play an instrument that is unconventional for most public-school students, but she also challenged me and boosted my self-esteem. She was an exceptional teacher and a formidable woman, and I had and still have great respect for her. She demanded excellence, and I wanted to live up to her expectations. Being her student taught me how to take direction and how to give everything I had to the task. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of her and how her guidance and direction have made me a better person.
Jennifer Shuping Patton, EBHS Class of 1982
Miss Siphers led a dynamic music program, and her ability to instill a love and passion for music in me and countless others has remained with us our entire lives; it is unprecedented and nothing short of miraculous. She pushed those she recognized with natural talent and showed us that when you combine that talent with hard work and countless hours of practice, you can master an instrument. Music is such an important part of my life, and the lessons I learned from her still echo every time I play. If I could say one thing to her today in person it would be, "To those of us who were fortunate enough to be blessed by your dedication and commitment to music, Miss Siphers, you were perfect in every way...and I am thankful to have had you as my teacher and mentor."
--Todd Roper, Class of 1988
East Burke Band 1984