Jazzin’ Up the Schools


Dick Redman

When you enter the band room at Pella High School, it won’t take you long to notice the shelves — and shelves — of trophies lining the walls. Many of the awards, especially the ones for jazz music, come from the legacy of one man, Dick Redman ‘76, instrumental music teacher at Pella Community Schools for 33 years. His retirement in May means that the new director will have a big conductor’s baton to take up.

Redman majored in music education at Central and then went on to earn a master’s degree in music education from Truman State University. He returned to Pella, and the accolades began to pile up. Redman was named to the Iowa Jazz Educators Hall of Fame in 2010 and received the IBA Karl King Service Award (Active) in 2002.

But Redman doesn’t like taking credit for his success. “If there’s a secret, it’s the quality of the students,” he says. “They are very talented, very dedicated, very motivated. The students have some high expectations and a lot of pride.”

Those expectations have led Redman and his students to earn multiple national and state awards, including Division I ratings at the IHSMA State Large Group and Jazz Band contests. With Redman as director, the Pella Jazz I group made the finals of the Iowa Jazz Championships for 18 consecutive years, placing first 14 times, the only band to do so.

Jazz musicians weren’t the only Pella students to shine under Redman’s guidance. The Marching Dutch color guard has received numerous Best of Class and Top Overall Color Guard awards at state and national contests. Many of his students have been selected for the Iowa All-State Band, Orchestra and Jazz Band, as well as the Miss Iowa Color Guard award.

Redman credits his success to the Pella community, as well. His gratitude has motivated him to give back as an active community member. He directs the Pella Municipal Band and is a member of the Pella Opera House Programming Committee and the Tulip Time Steering Committee, which plans the event every year.

That passion for community service and engagement springs from the examples his professors set during his time in college. “When I was at Central, so many professors were involved in the community,” says Redman. “Whether they were working at the grandstand during Tulip Time or leading tours at the Historical Village, they were very community-minded. And that made an impression on me. They embraced the community as much as the college.”

As a Central alumnus, Redman embraced the college, too. For 30 years, he has organized and run a summer camp on campus for high school color guard and drum majors. Each year, the camp brings over 250 high school students to campus, increasing the school’s reputation in the arts — a reputation upheld by alumni like Redman who succeed in their fields and stay connected to Central.

When Mitch Lutch, director of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at Central, invited Redman to direct a piece during a concert this spring, he jumped at the chance to return to Douwstra Auditorium.

Directing college students was a new experience for Redman, and he appreciated the opportunity. “They are very good musicians,” he says. “With college-level students, their approach is so different. They were receptive immediately to the interpretation I wanted.”

Working in Douwstra brought back memories of his own senior recital. With that performance, Redman came full circle — ending his career the same place it began. He has a lot to show for his success in between, including being named to the Education Hall of Fame by the Pella Chamber of Commerce.

Although he loves his job and loves the students, Redman knows it’s time to move on to something new, even though he’s unsure what form that future will take. “Maybe I’ll go out west,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy.”

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