Jim Kull conducts his final concert after 29 years of teaching at East


The Wind Ensemble performs a world premiere of Godspeed (2023) by Julie Giroux as the final piece of the concert. Photo credit: Marie de Luna

Yzabelle de Luna, Graphics Editor

On May 4, 2023, Jim Kull conducted his final formal concert after 29 years of teaching band at St. Charles East High School and 40 years of teaching altogether.. STCE alumni as well as family and friends of Kull from all over the country were in attendance. The concert revisited some of Kull’s favorite composers and honored Kull’s teaching career as a whole. 

St. Charles East’s Concert Band and Wind Ensemble performed a total of seven pieces during the 90 minute concert. The Concert Band performed Flourishes! by William Owens, Unspoken by Katahj Copley and A Time to Dance by Julie Giroux. The Wind Ensemble performed Until the Scars by John Mackey, Lasting Light by Viet Cuong, Sinfonietta No. 2 “Bells for Prayer” by Hirokazu Fukushima, and played a world premiere of Julie Giroux’s Godspeed, a piece commissioned by Kull’s family to honor his contributions to music education during his career.

Throughout the concert, Kull thanked those who have supported him throughout his time at East and contributed to the success of the music program, including beloved composers, parent booster groups, alumni and students, and his two colleagues in the band department, Brett Dean and Gill Wukitsch.

Before the performance of Godspeed, Wukitsch took the stage to outline the impact that Kull has had in his time teaching. He emphasized the importance he’s had on music education, not only to the school but nationwide by helping to commission 15-20+ pieces for bands to play, helping to perpetuate music composition for years to come.

Wukitsch went on to talk about what Kull has been able to do for students over the years. He highlighted the experiences Kull has given students such as playing at Carnegie Hall, in Hawaii, Japan, China and Disney World. 

But what he stressed was what students take away from their time in band as a whole. “Something that [Kull] said very early in my career that has stuck with me, and it’s a cornerstone of what he believes and what I believe as well now is that: when students come down here to the music area, it should be different than everywhere else in the building. They should be able to leave everything else behind and come and do this every single day,” said Wukitsch. “The most important thing is what you did each day with Mr. Kull and that he worked as hard as he could every single day to give you the best possible experience you could have, not just musically, but as a person. […] That’s the most important thing that he gives us.”

During this time, Kull also stated the importance of his family in his career. “All my family is the world to me. My kids are wonderful people, my wife is one of the greatest people ever, so on Christmas they surprised me by contacting Julie Giroux to write a piece for this concert to celebrate my career. And that is really something I never expected, and I feel like… I’m really not worthy of this. But [Godspeed] is a gorgeous piece, and it’ll be a gift that hopefully, 50 years later, somebody will play this piece and read the notes on it, and know what kind of family that I have.”

When asked how it felt to be playing at the concert, senior Rose Mcclure, a trombone player in the Wind Ensemble, said, “It was probably one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had when it comes to music. […] To be able to not only play in his last concert, but also play a piece written in commemoration of all his work in music education made me feel like I was giving back for everything he has taught me over these four years.”

After retiring, Kull plans on taking time off by traveling around, seeing his kids, exercising, cooking and overall just enjoying not being in charge of things. He still plans on keeping in touch with music in the community and is looking forward to being able to play and practice music more without having to direct it.

“[Music] is the most glorious thing when it feels good,” said Kull. “I think everybody knows when the music really feels good and is getting to a place where the collection of the notes and the rhythms transform you to some other place. And I think that’s what music can do, and I think that there’s no other place in the school where you can get that kind of thing.”

When asked what he thinks band teaches students, Kull talked about the sense of community that band brings, “[Band] teaches you that being a part of a group is a big responsibility. Everybody has to work together. I think it also is unique in the fact that you have a lot of people pulling the same weight to get something done. There’s no bench, everybody has to play, and I think it teaches you a lot of lessons that the real world will teach you. […] I think, really what band teaches you, you get out of it what you put into it. And I think that’s a really, really valuable thing.”

He continued to talk about what he feels the band program at East has brought for students. “[In band,] everybody’s important in that everybody means something to the group. And I always felt that we […] were able to have a program where lots of different kids could be successful and have a home. I think that’s really important.”

Senior Jefferson Dietrich, a tuba player in the Wind Ensemble, agreed with this notion when asked what Kull has taught him. “My first day of marching band as a freshman, he pulled [some of the tuba players] aside and said ‘Hey, you two are my last four years, let’s make this great.’ And that has stuck with me for four years, and that’s kinda been my motto whenever I had band, or whenever I saw Mr. Kull. And it really did show how genuine of a person he really is under the sarcastic nature that he presents, and how he really does think that this is a group and not just individuals playing music.”

McClure elaborated on the impact that Kull has had on her in her time at East. “Without this man I would not be near the musician I am today, even if it means I’ve listened to him talk about Hip-Hop producers in class and his gripes with football, I have not had any other person influence me as much as he has when it comes to my musicianship. He taught me to love the music, the connection you can tell he has to the music and this program is so clearly evident and I hope that even just a bit of that has rubbed onto me.”

“Without this man, I would not be near the musician I am today.”

— Senior Rose McClure

When students were asked what they’d like to say to Kull before he leaves, they all said that they just wanted to thank him for all that he’s done. Freshman Seth Filas, a clarinet player in the Concert Band, said “I’d like to thank him, just for being a teacher that you know will always be there if you ever needed help. […] You just know that he’s always there and willing to help you.”

Dietrich has led the charge in raising over $1,100 for a final gift for Kull which will be presented at the pops concert on May 17. “I am so thankful for parents, I’m so thankful for [students],” he said. “It’s just been really cool to see how many people and how many alumni and how many parents have come together to donate to a fund of a teacher that they’ve never had. […] I truly don’t know how to say thank you to everybody.”

In her program notes for Godspeed, Giroux wrote, “I chose Godspeed as the title because Jim Kull is retiring at the end of the month. We have been friends for many years, and though I wish he would be a band director forever, it isn’t going to happen. I think that would probably be a fate worse than it sounds. Yes, I wish Jim godspeed on his next life adventures, and hope he has the best time of his life during his next phase of life. […] Godspeed Jim, I love you.”