Mitchell’s Ryan Stahle receives SDHSAA Distinguished Service Award


But for Ryan Stahle, group director at Mitchell High School, there’s nothing else he’d rather do, and it shows. The Mitchell High School and University of South Dakota graduate has guided his students and programs through a number of different challenges and helped them find their share of success along the way.

And he was recently recognized for this work by the South Dakota High School Activities Association by naming him the recipient of the SDHSAA Distinguished Service Award. The honor was a bit of a surprise, Stahle said recently.

“I was getting my hair cut and started getting a bunch of text messages,” Stahle said. “I had no idea that I had won this award.”

He might not have expected recognition, but his nearly two decades of work teaching music to students at Mitchell High School has said a lot about the SDHSAA award selectors. Born in Mankato, Minnesota and graduated from MHS in 1992 and graduated from USD in 1997, Stahle began his career as a music teacher at Farmington High School near Minneapolis before leaving for a business job opportunity. in Sioux Falls for a short time.

Shortly after, in 2003, a bit of luck played a role in bringing him back to Mitchell, where he had moved with his parents from Mankato just before his eighth year. Although he enjoyed his teaching experience in Minnesota, as a recent college graduate he was unsure if teaching was meant to be his profession.

“(Former group manager) Brad Berens was leaving with an administration degree,” Stahle said. “It was fate. A friend who taught the choir told me about the opening and I interviewed for the position in 2003 and got an offer. It’s 18 years to come this fall.

From that year on, Stahle soon realized that teaching was indeed destined to be his career. Since taking office, the jazz groups under his direction have always received top honors, the high school marching band has made the final of the Sioux Falls Festival of Bands eight times and its symphony groups are known to receive top ratings. constant.


Ryan Stahle, group director at Mitchell High School, was recently named the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the South Dakota High <a class=School Activities Association. Brooks Bowman, deputy executive director and fine arts administrator for SDHSAA, left, presented the award to Stahle. (Photo submitted)” width=”1140″ height=””/>

Ryan Stahle, group director at Mitchell High School, was recently named the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Brooks Bowman, deputy executive director and fine arts administrator for SDHSAA, left, presented the award to Stahle. (Photo submitted)

The career change reinvigorated his passion for music, drawing inspiration from former high school and college teachers. He particularly embraced a love of jazz, a form of music often misunderstood as too intellectual or accessible only to those who actually played it. But he tries to instill in his own jazz students the skills to be an effective player.

“I played in a jazz band in high school and college, and getting these opportunities to solo and learn how to improvise jazz was key to developing that love and interest,” said Stahle.

Stahle continues to serve as President of the South Dakota All-State Jazz Band and is a member of the SDHSAA Music Advisory Board. He also performs with the South Dakota Jazz Orchestra and Massive Brass Attack and Main Avenue Warehouse.

Seeing his students excel in jazz is a wonderful experience, he said. Seven Mitchell students formed the last statewide jazz group, continuing a tradition of high school performance at the event.

“This year we had seven children by Mitchell, and I think it’s a huge honor. The only school that had more in this organization was Sioux Falls Lincoln, and it’s a school with over 2,000 kids, ”Stahle said. “We typically have an average of a number of kids each year that form a statewide jazz band, and the management of the event and the presence of so many of my students there, c ‘is a great achievement. “

Jazz continues to hold a special place in her heart, but all aspects of her work at Mitchell High School continue to bring her satisfaction. Last year, Mitchell hosted the South Dakota All-State Band concert for the first time since 1999, when it was last performed at Corn Palace. This past March, the event returned, this time to the district’s Performing Arts Center and featured six Mitchell students participating in the highly competitive event.

Her accomplishments have brought her skills to the attention of other school districts looking to foster success in their own band programs, but Stahle said the combination of teaching at her alma mater, community support and of administration and the success he sees in students much like himself when he was younger keeps him at Mitchell.

“There’s a high level of parent and community support for music, then coupled with the administrative support that we have – you don’t have a multi-million dollar facility (like PAC) without an administration. that values ​​what you do, ”Stahle says.

Joe Childs, principal of Mitchell High School, said he was happy Stahle received the recognition that Mitchell District leaders knew he deserved.

“He’s always on the move, working with his students and delivering world-class education. On top of all of this, Mr. Stahle has a network that extends far beyond our state, and because of this, is able to bring clinicians and other high schools to MHS to support our music programs ” , said Childs. “This year he developed new courses for students to write and record their own music, and during a COVID-19 year, provided countless opportunities for our Mitchell students. Ryan Stahle has always been our distinguished service winner, the state just got him the plaque. “


The South Dakota High School Activities Association recently recognized Ryan Stahle, group director at Mitchell High School, with the organization's Distinguished Service Award.  Pictured with Stahle, left to right, daughter Atlanta, wife Nicole and son Hunter.  (Photo submitted)

The South Dakota High School Activities Association recently recognized Ryan Stahle, group director at Mitchell High School, with the organization’s Distinguished Service Award. Pictured with Stahle, left to right, daughter Atlanta, wife Nicole and son Hunter. (Photo submitted)

Brooks Bowman, Deputy Executive Director of SDHSAA and Administrator of Fine Arts, presented the award to Stahle.

“His connection to the world of jazz education helps him recruit some of the best jazz musicians and clinicians in the country. Schools come from all over the state to participate in the Palace City Jazz Festival because they know their students will learn from some of the best jazz musicians and know that everything will turn out perfectly, ”Bowman said during his presentation. “Ryan is a true professional and has had a significant impact on young musicians across South Dakota.”

Despite the long list of successes and accomplishments, Stahle continues to look for ways to improve his program. The number one priority is to increase the number of students participating. Studying music is a rewarding field, he hopes every student will get at least a taste during their time at Mitchell High School.

He knows the potential for students is there, and past successes indicate that there are rewards to be reaped by participating in instrumental music programs.

“The biggest thing I want to do is develop the program. When you talk about our activities, we have so much for kids to do, and yet our student base hasn’t grown much in 15 or 20 years, ”said Stahle. “A lot of work is being done at the younger levels to try to get more children into the instrumental program.”

With the last school year coming to an end, Stahle said there would be some steady work to be done during the summer months before diving headlong into another year full of practice, performance and music. It can be a lot of work, for both the teacher and the student, but Stahle doesn’t take any part of it for granted. He gets to work with things he loves – music and the students who embrace it and want to learn more.

“I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of this, and (the students) are what keep you motivated and engaged in the business because they are such a great group of students. They’re hungry, they’re sponges, they’re amazing people to work with. It was a great race and I look forward to the next few years, ”said Stahle.


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