More photos of South Hamilton Band Directors

Gil Lettow directs his Junior High Band in 1972, his last year at South Hamilton.

Gil Lettow grew up on a farm near Radcliffe and graduated from Radcliffe High School.   He studied music education at Drake University, earning a bachelor's degree in 1965 and a master's degree in 1967.

Gil Lettow began his legacy of live-long teaching as a band instructor by teaching grades 4-12 at the Grand Valley Community School in Kellerton, Iowa.   He next joined Max in the South Hamilton School District Music department for nine years.   He then joined the Mason City schools in the 1972-173 school year as associate music director, and then led the instrumental music department from 1980 to 2002.

Through music, Gil wanted to teach students such life skills as hard work, self discipline, working as a team, and an appreciation of music.

He also led the Mason City Municipal Band for 21 years.  After leaving Mason City, he served as director of bands at West Ridge Middle School in Austin, Texas.

Upon his return to Mason City, Gil joined The Music Man Square as program administrator. 

Here are four of South Hamilton's band directors.
From left, Alan Spohnheimer, Max Whitlock, Orley Kilburn, Kathy Yoakam

Max Whitlock is teaching two low brass students.

The students are Tom Klaver and Justin Deppe.

Tom Klaver with his euphonium

Max Whitlock is seen with the Fiddler on the Roof pit crew.

Besides playing bass guitar, Tom also performed on euphonium and tuba.


Tombone performer with director Max Whitlock

Max and Carolyn Whitlock

More photos of Max Whitlock



The image below shows an article on page 6 of the January 6, 1994 issue of the South Hamilton Record News.

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(the image may be clicked for a larger version.)



Here is the text about Alan Spohnheimer:

In 1972, Alan Spohnheimer was hired for 5th and 6th grade music, a position that he was told would probably be a temporary.  Now, after 22 years in that position, he is assuming it is not a temporary one.   "My mother showed me an ad for a band director at South Hamilton and I came and applied.  This was my first teaching job I was very fortunate to get this job, the program was in good shape with Max Whitlock, Orley Kilburn and Gil Lettow.  Every program has compromises and follows the shape of the persons in charge.  I am indebted to Max and Dick Textor for trying me out with no experience."

Spohnheimer was born m Duluth, Minnesota and moved a lot as a child.  His father was a physician in the Air Force.  They settled in Southern Iowa when Alan attended school from 4th grade to the middle of his senior year, when the family moved to Ames.  He graduated from Ames High School in 1967.  During high school he played the baritone in band and was in the chorus.  He also taught piano and swimming lessons.  Academics were very important to him, both in high school and college.  During high school, Spohnheimer had fallen m love with mechanical drawing and drafting and planned to go to Drake and study architecture.  But after his parents moved to Ames, it seemed logical for him to go to Iowa State and he changed to music education.  His mother was an educator which helped toward making a decision to change careers.  In addition, thru teaching swimming and piano, he found out that he enjoyed working with kids and teaching seemed to come natural to him.  He did have a lot of background in the science field, in case he decided to go into a medical field like his father.

Spohnheimer stated, "I never took a course I didn't like."  The music education department at ISU was new when he started and being still small, he had the advantage of a small community within the large setting of  the university.

"However, while thawing water pipes "one winter day when a junior at ISU, he and a cousin made a decision to so south to Texas.  So after three years at ISU, he went to the University of Texas at Austin in 1970 for a year.  This gave him good exposure to a larger music department, and after a year he returned to ISU and graduated from there in 1972, and began teaching at South Hamilton.  His first year of teaching, one of his students was Kathy Peterson Yoakam, now his peer in the music department.  When he began at South Hamilton, the 5th & 6th grades were at the Randall Center.  One day during the summer at the swimming pool he asked one of his students who the girl was at the basket window.  He replied, "That's my sister, Gina."  Gina Staples and Alan Spohnheimer were married in 1974 and lived in Randall until they bought a house in Ellsworth and moved there.  They are the parents of three children, all students at South Hamilton, Sara, a senior; Wayne a sophomore and Kent a 6th grader.  Gina does custom baking from their home and is well known for her kringla.

Mr. Spohnheimer is a member of the Methodist Church in Ellsworth, the Iowa Band Masters Association, and a member of the Ensemble Musica Antiquia (a member since 1967).  He is also a Boy Scout leader.  His hobbies include water sports, sailing, canoeing, computers and restoring old trucks to usable condition.  At South Hamilton, Mr. Spohnheimer is the 6-8 grade band director.  He also has a 20 minute lesson for each student every week.  This year there are 60 students in the 6th grade band and 80 students in the 7th & 8th grade band.  He appreciates the support the community has given the arts and enjoys the association with kids.  He also feels that through music students learn social responsibility and working together as a team.  Music is a connection that pulls students together.



Here is the text about Kathy Yoakam:

In November of 1991, Kathy Yoakam realized her life-long dream of teaching Instrumental Music at South Hamilton High School.  Mrs Yoakam said, "I had taught and substituted at different schools, and always knew that this was the place where I wanted to teach - this is the right place for me.  The community support and the quality of the program in the past is very special.  I would like to express my thanks to all for the support of the music department at South Hamilton."  Mrs Yoakam grew up on a farm west of Jewell, the daughter of Robert and Pat Peterson.  She has two brothers, Travis and Rod and a sister, Robin.  She is a 1979 graduate of South Hamilton High School.  During high school she was active in softball, basketball, track and "every choir and band thing."  She was a member of All-State band her junior and senior years, and a member of the honor band.

After high school Mrs Yoakam attended Waldorf College in Forest City and toured Norway and Sweden with the Waldorf Choir.  She graduated from Iowa State University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Music with her major instrument as the French Horn.  While at Iowa State, she was a member of the Wind Ensemble and a brass quintet that toured the midwest, along with playing in the ISU Symphony.  Currently, she is the principal horn with the Fort Dodge Symphony, a member of Ames Municipal Band and several brass quintets.  She has also substituted in the Des Moines Symphony.

Mrs Yoakam was married to Dennis Yoakam in 1990, following the death of her first husband, Paul Baldus.   Her children are Christian, 10, Benjamin, 8, Sarah, 6, and Kelly, 3.  They are expecting another child m early 1994.  Her husband is a student at ISU in electrical engineering.   Mrs. Yoakam student-taught at South Hamilton and then taught elementary band and vocal at Stratford before coming to South Hamilton.  She is a member of South Hamilton Education Association, Iowa Bandmasters Association, North Central Band Directors Association.  She enjoys playing her horn and spending time with her children.  Learning to work together in a large group to make an accomplished sound and expressing themselves through music are the goals of Mrs. Yoakam.  She wants students to be exposed to a variety of music and leam a deeper appreciation of music.  She hopes the students will get involved in as many music things as their time allows, such as solo and group contests.

At South Hamilton, Mrs. Yoakam is the high school band director.  She also is the music director for Hamilton Holidays and the Variety Show.  High school band includes the marching and concert bands, the jazz band and the pep band.   Each student also receives a 20 minute lesson weekly.   High School students have 3 concerts a year, a Winter concert, one in March and the selections at graduation ceremonies.  The marching band marches at all home football games and in several parades.   Every 4 years, the band takes a trip, usually to competition of some sort.  This past year, they went to competition at St. Louis, and won 1st place concert band in the St. Louis Open.   One of the judges for that competition was Frank Piersol, who wrote the "Maxi March", a march which honored retired band director Max Whitlock.   The high school band currently has 80 members.  This spring, South Hamilton will be hosting the Heart of Iowa Fine Arts Festival in March, which will include band, vocal and art students from the school in the Heart of Iowa Conference.


Kathy Yoakam is outdoors directing band members.

Kathy Yoakam is shown working with her French Horn performers.

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This photo shows Max Whitlock visiting with Alan Spohnheimer following a 2004 High School Band concert.
Craig and Gail Johnson are seen with their daughter Erin, who is a great clarinet player.

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Middle School Director Wendy Nutini speaks to the audience during the Middle School Band concert.
Wendy followed Alan as director of South Hamilton Middle School bands.

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This photo shows director Mr. John Carey surrounded by his five former students from South Hamilton, who are performing with the Iowa State University Marching Band in 2006.  The students are Lynsey Carlson, Melanie Wilson, Jeremiah Evans, Ross Schumaker, and Kent Spohnheimer.

John Carey and Alan Spohnheimer are standing next to South Hamilton student Melanie Wilson.

Melanie was for ten years director of North Polk High School Bands, but now teaches Middle School Band in Gilbert.  Her name is now Melanie Wilson Spohnheimer.

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Tom Klaver was once a South Hamilton student, but later was a South Hamilton band director.

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Tom Klaver and Alan Spohnheimer, two former South Hamilton Directors

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Former Middle School director Matt Schutt with the 6th Grade Band

click for the Raquel Holt Senior Spotlight

Alexa Gibbs, at right, is standing with Raquel Holt, her former student who performs with the ISU Drumline.

Matt Schutt, Alexa Gibbs and Kaily Macdonald each spent part of their teaching careers on the staff of South Hamilton Music Department.


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