Paul Kafer bobs his head and bounces his body to the sound coming from a small, but enthusiastic marching band.
“Beautiful!” he bellowed from behind the drum majors.
The band froze in their spots as Kafer practically skipped toward them.
“Hey band!” he yelled.
“Hey what!” they echoed.
“Bring it in.”
Kafer is new to Castleton’s music department, but he’s been teaching and admiring music for years.
In 4th grade, Kafer went to an instrument demo at a local church. Many instruments were laid out, but there was this one instrument that nobody was playing.
“So I picked it up and I started playing a song just on site. Just kind of did it,” he said, starting to sing the “Snake Charmer Song.” “The director stops in his tracks and walked over to me and said ‘so have you played oboe before?’ And I said no, this is the first time I’ve ever played it,” Kafer said.
Now, Kafer’s primary instrument is the bassoon.
While life as the new Castleton music professor is great, growing up wasn’t so easy. Life at home was rough because of alcoholic parents and he said he may regret not spending enough time with his family, but he found a positive escape through music.
“Music is the love of my life,” he said as a gentle flute plays in the background.
But life isn’t not all about music; he also loves to do outdoor activities including biking, boating, and gardening. He especially loves the beautiful scenery that Vermont has given him.
“As I was driving up for the interview and I came into a clearing, there was a large range of mountains on my left and a beautiful clearing on my right and there was a small little lake and stream and I just remember how moved I was when I saw that,” he said.
When Kafer was hired toward the end of July, he knew there was a lot of work to do. With only two weeks left until band camp, he was scrambling.
“We did a lot of talking on the phone and a lot of work when he got here, but I didn’t have to step in at all. He knew it had to happen and he made it happen,” said Glenn Giles, the chair of the music department.
Kafer lives on Lake Bomoseen in a “stinky” log cabin with his two cats. Unfortunately, he’s divorced, but his current girlfriend is living in New Jersey studying to be a veterinarian in Bergen County. He has two kids, Jeremy, 21, and Maria, 25.
Though Kafer has worked with competitive marching bands and has won many awards, his proudest moment was when he put on the show “Bye Bye Birdie” at a children’s hospital.
“The actors in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ were all students that were in the children’s hospital,” Kafer said.
The young boy who played the character, Conrad Birdie, a handsome and Elvis Presley-like character, had burns on 95 percent of his body.
His face was completely deformed yet he sang as if he were very handsome,” Kafer continues. “And little Rosie had cancer. She came up to me at the end of the production. She gave me a big hug and she said ‘I’ve never performed in a musical, thank you so much for allowing me to do this.’ And about two months later, she died.”
Kafer may be new to Castleton, but he’s already made a big impression on his students, the staff and especially Loren Sylvester, the graduate assistant of the music department.
“I actually look up to him a lot because he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to music. Kafer’s understanding of music is deeper than I’ve seen before and I kind of look up and respect that,” Sylvester said.