Music grad leads from the front providing opportunities for his students
Raised in Simi Valley, California, Scott Kneff ’99, made his way to Oregon his senior year in high school to look at the University of Oregon (U of O). Both of his parents were U of O graduates so it made sense to check out the campus and programs. Finding that the campus and number of students were too big for his comfort, he visited Ashland and SOU’s campus. “It was a no brainer for me to fall in love with Ashland and SOU. I was a student that didn’t want to feel lost on a large campus,” said Scott. Opting to save money and earn credits, he attended Moorpark Community College for his first two years but eventually, Ashland beckoned.
Scott made it back to SOU for the fall 1995 term. It was a huge relief and he felt like he was home. “I loved the tight, family-oriented atmosphere of the music department,” he said. Rhett Bender, Stu Turner, Cynthia Hutton, Michael Turner, Richard Harrison and Paul French were some of his most beloved professors, setting the stage for him to think about a career in music education. While on campus, Scott participated in Jazz Band, Symphonic Band, Saxophone Quartet and the Raider Band. “I had some of the most memorable times with those groups performing in the Music Recital Hall.” He graduated spring of 1999 with a bachelor of arts in music performance.
After graduation, he returned to Southern California and worked to finish an undergraduate degree in history from California State University Northridge, graduating with his bachelor of arts in December of 2001. Itching to teach, he began an education credential program at California Lutheran University (CLU) with an emphasis in instrumental music and history.
At the conclusion of completing his California Teaching Credential, Scott continued his education and earned an MEd from CLU in May, 2007. During that time, he began teaching at Robert Frost Middle School with the Los Angeles Unified School District, teaching band and 7th Grade history. After two years with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Scott substitute taught for one year and taught one year with Good Shepherd Lutheran School, where he taught history, geography, and language arts. At the conclusion of his master’s thesis at CLU, he focused on becoming a full-time band director. In 2007, he was hired by the Bakersfield City School District as a traveling elementary school teacher. He taught elementary music to students in grades three through five in the areas of third grade recorders, elementary strings and elementary band. At the end of 2007, he made the decision to return to his Ventura County roots to teach instrumental music in Santa Paula, California.
The fall of 2008 saw Scott beginning his start at his current position as the band director at Isbell School in Santa Paula, California. When Scott began as director at Isbell, the program had only 57 students spread throughout three classes. Scott could see incredible potential for the program to grow and worked tirelessly between 2008-2015 to build the program that consistently earned high ratings in marching and concert competitions. The program increased in student band participation from 57 students in the fall of 2008 to 175 students participating in band in the fall of 2019.
The Isbell band program serves many economically challenged students as well as English as a Second Language (ESL) students who are first generation Americans. For over a decade, he has built the program and strengthened it with consistently high numbers providing opportunities for them that otherwise, would not exist.
2014 was a turning point for the program. “The Isbell band program started to significantly increase in students participating in band and we had a need to acquire new instruments for students. I applied for a grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which is an organization that provides instruments for underprivileged students and underfunded programs by providing instrument donations. In December of 2014, we were awarded an $18,000 grant for new instruments for students which became a game changer for Isbell Middle School,” he said. The year they received the grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation set the stage for the marching band and concert band earning high results at multiple competitions. The following spring the Isbell Band went on to receive one of the first of several Superior ratings at a Southern California Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) festival competition. Since 2014, the Isbell Marching Band has earned nine first place results in marching band competitions. The students take particular pride in their SCSBOA festival results having earned three excellent ratings, two superior ratings, four unanimous superior ratings, three regional excellent SCSBOA festival ratings, and one regional superior SCSBOA festival rating – all in a span of six years.
Scott is very proud of the accomplishments of the Isbell Band program but he is very thankful for the support of the Santa Paula community and strongly believes in providing a music education for all within the Santa Paula community.
Learn more: Isbell Middle School