John H. Combs Interview, circa October 1990


John H. Combs


Kirk Easter, Sandy Shoen, Tommy Dobberstein, Holly Hook, Rhonda Burghardt



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Download Transcript of John H. Combs Interview (318 KB)


John Combs talks about his early music education, his university training, and being offered a job as the band director at Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana in the late 1970s. He discusses the importance of band music and its roots as a uniquely American form of music. He also describes his teaching philosophy, which is to teach students about music’s role in culture and as a reflection of culture, not just how to play music. Combs articulates his concerns about the lack of complexity in modern rock and roll music and how most Americans in the 1990s consider music to play a utilitarian role rather than a cultural role in their lives and society. He describes the differences between producers, choir directors, band directors, and conductors. Combs also discusses the importance of introducing children to technically interesting music, such as classical and jazz, early on so that they develop an ear for it, which makes it easier for them to learn how to play an instrument.


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Document Type

Oral History


High school bands; Band directors; Secondary education; Music education, secondary schools; Music education, high schools; High school music teachers; Music professionals; Music educators; Classical music; Band music; Pep band music; American music; Missoula, Montana; Hellgate High School, Missoula, Montana; Miles City, Montana

Original Date


Time Period

Twentieth century

Geographic Coverage




Original Collection

Missoula Musicians Oral History Project, OH 253, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula

Digital Publisher

University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library


Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections: (406) 243-2053 /

Oral History Number

OH 253-005

Media Type

Sound; Text

Original Format

1 sound cassette (01:30:00 min.) analog + 1 transcript (14 p.: 28 cm.)

Digital Format

audio/mp3; application/pdf

Run Time

00:50:15 minutes

Local Filename

OH_253_005.mp3; OH_253_005.pdf

John H. Combs Interview, circa October 1990