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Copley band director retires after 31 years

6/5/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

Copley-Fairlawn Middle School Band Director Lori Ciulla, shown above during an eighth-grade band concert, has retired after 31 of years of service to the district.
Photo courtesy of Copley-Fairlawn City Schools
COPLEY — After 31 years of working in Copley-Fairlawn City Schools, Copley-Fairlawn Middle School Band Director Lori Ciulla is leaving big shoes to fill, according to Superintendent Brian Poe.

Ciulla couldn’t attend the May 20 Board of Education meeting when all of the district’s retirees were honored because she was busy directing her last middle school concert.

And although many things have changed in the last 30 years, Ciulla said one thing that hasn’t changed is the Copley school district’s devotion to its music program.

“I was so blessed to be hired into Copley-Fairlawn schools,” Ciulla said. “It was known for being a school district that understood the importance of providing a well-rounded education for all students and that included music education at all levels.”

Because of that support, Ciulla said, band, choir and general music programs in the district are thriving and enrollment is larger than ever. Music, she said, is “very valued by this community.”

“Lori has really done an amazing job of building our middle school band program,” Poe said.

That strong middle school foundation extends to the district’s “terrific” high school program, he added. Poe said approximately 700 students from fifth through 12th grades are involved in the music program. That’s about a third of the student population in those grades, he said.

“Students, staff, administration — the entire community — are going to miss her,” Poe said.

Ciulla’s influence is evident every year during the spring Bands in the Round program, which really showcases the district’s talent, Poe said. The fifth- and sixth-graders during that concert demonstrate an amazing ability to play individually, and, more importantly, as a group, Poe said.

Another thing that hasn’t changed in the past 30 years are her students, Ciulla said.

“The kids don’t really change,” she said. “They may change in their fads, in their appearances and with their technology,” but they still thrive on having boundaries, on learning and on being respected, Ciulla said. Their passion for the arts and performing and their love of music also have remained the same, she added.

Ciulla came to Copley in 1983 from Buckeye Local Schools, where she taught elementary school and was the assistant high school band director. She was hired as Copley assistant high school band director under director Gary Kleptach.

When Ciulla became pregnant with her first child, she and her husband, Gary, band director at Medina Senior High School, decided it would be too difficult to raise a family with both parents directing high school bands. Ciulla was job hunting on maternity leave when she got a call from Copley Superintendent Richard Cline with welcome news. Copley Junior High Band Director Mitch Greenawalt was retiring and Cline was offering her the job. Ciulla said she jumped at the opportunity.

Ciulla was the only music teacher in the building, responsible for band, choir and general music for three or four years, she said. When the building became four grades and was rechristened a middle school, Ciulla became the full-time middle school band director.

“I was thrilled and humbled to build on the really excellent foundation that was here,” Ciulla said.

She added she is thankful to the community and for the opportunity to work in the district.

“It’s been my pleasure. ... Thanks for the memories that will last a lifetime,” she added.

The popular band director said she didn’t plan to retire this year, but, as it worked out, it was time, she said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do not coming to Copley every day,” she said.

She does, however, have a few ideas about how she’ll fill her time. Ciulla serves as music director for Harvest Presbyterian Church in Medina. The church, which Ciulla said has an active music ministry, plans to open the Harvest Institute of Music, with Ciulla as its director, she said. The institute, to be known as InH.I.M., will offer instrumental and vocal and performance instruction as an outreach program of the church, she said.

In the meantime, Poe is working on filling those big shoes. The district has received 160 applications for the position, he said.

Ciulla, a Hartville native, earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Kent State University and a master’s degree in music education from The University of Akron.

Ciulla and her husband live in Medina. They are parents of four children, Lindsay, 29; Nicholas, 26; and 20-year-old twins Vincent and Jacob.

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