New music teacher views SHS as new home

October 28, 2009 — by Karthik Annaamalai

Band students were sad to say good-bye to beloved former band teacher John Zarco when he announced his departure to pursue his PhD. last year; however, new music teacher Duane Otani hopes to find a place in their hearts.

“Teaching at Saratoga seemed like a good opportunity for me,” said Otani. “I love working here and everything about the school. The students are great and I know we can have a successful year.”

Growing up on a farm in Kula, Hawaii, Otani participated in 4-H, an organization dedicated to rodeo competitions and raising animals. Otani was selected to compete in the national rodeo tournament when he was in high school.

“I grew up on a farm, so I’m a country kid,” said Otani. “I started doing rodeos since sixth grade because most of my friends we doing it too, and I found that it was really fun.”

Although he spent a lot of time with his animals, Otani found the time to take charge of his high school’s marching band, leading them as the drum major for three years.

After finishing high school in Maui, Otani moved to Fresno, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at Fresno State. Otani was a band instructor for eight years, mainly at Clovis High School and Aliso Niguel High School.

Music department head Michael Boitz said Otani was picked out of more 40 applicants because of Otani’s ability to improve music programs as well as his strong resumé.

“Mr. Otani got the Music Student of the Year Award at Fresno State, which is very impressive because it is very tough to get,” said Boitz. “He also rebuilt a music program that was on the fringe of collapsing at his former school. He was a standout candidate.”

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