When walking into room 38N, you will notice risers that flip when stepped on, murals created by alumni, pictures and many trophies that decorate the area Robert Drafall has called home for 19 years.
“Dra,” as many students call him, has been inspiring students to pursue music in all types of fields and to live life to the fullest. His quirky warm-ups and incredible longevity and energy in rehearsals are amazing. No matter how tired he may be or the difficult times that he goes through, he is always excited to see his choirs.
Drafall learned early on that he had a love of music and wanted to become a music teacher. His school and church choirs influenced his decision to pursue music, and the public schools in Chicago he attended had an outstanding music program. He was a part of all the music groups offered at his high school and was an all-state clarinetist.
Drafall was teaching at Williamsport High School in 1995 when offered a position at State High. He said it was a difficult decision to make but, looking back, he is happy with his decision.
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He was nervous at first.
“I probably prepared 20 hours for the first day of school,” Drafall said. “I worked very, very hard. Freshman choir and Theory 1 were the only things that existed when I started.”
From two musical activities to 19 musical groups and classes, Drafall’s vision for the SCASD music program has evolved to become one of the best music programs in the country.
“I brought a very different vision for the department,” he said. “I felt very comfortable from the very start. It is important that teachers remain current, that they be cognizant of student needs and desires. The core of my vision has always been there.”
Sarah Rito, a State High alumna, was a choral student in Drafall’s first year.
“Mr. Drafall came in with a lot of ideas and, because he was new to the district, he accepted a lot of input that we had as students,” she said. “It was exciting to be part of the decisions that were made. His relationship with students has changed with the culture at the school. He is very approachable and that certainly hasn’t changed.”
State High 2013 graduate Erin McQuay was a part of the choral program from her freshman year to her senior year.
“Mr. Drafall is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever known,” McQuay said. “He has so much passion for what he does, and it’s contagious. It amazes me now how much trust he put into us as high school students.”
Like McQuay, I have participated in choir all four years in high school and I have learned so much about singing and have grown from my experiences in choir with Dra.
He is so energetic and can be a little crazy at times, but that is what makes him so fun and a teacher who can relate to the students. There are some teachers do not seem to care about their students outside of their class, but Drafall is not one of those teachers. He is truly a profound choral director, mentor and individual.
His advice for the person who is handed the baton: “Respect the past, but change is good. I hope they hire someone who has a tremendous respect for what has been happening but brings to the job new opportunities.”
There is no way that anyone can fill Drafall’s shoes and portray his lovable character. He has contributed so much of his time and talent to make the choral and music programs at State High successful and thrive. He is truly going to be missed by all of his former and current students, as well as those that have met him.