New band director aims to lead students to ‘musical success’

Wilton High School has welcomed Nick Loafman as the successor of longtime band directors Frank “Chip” Gawle and John Rhodes, who retired at the end of last school year.

Loafman moved from Illinois to Norwalk on Aug. 1 and assumed his new role a few days later.

“This community has been so welcoming and so wonderful to work with already,” said Loafman.

“The kids are outstanding, the parents and families are wonderful, and my colleagues and administration are so supportive.”

Although retired, Gawle has been helping Loafman transition into his new role and get acquainted with the high school’s well-established and successful music program.

“He is working on a consultancy basis — he’s been budgeted for a fixed number of hours to help me out,” said Loafman, “and he was very hands-on when I initially took over.”

Since August, Loafman, Gawle and Rhodes have met several times to plan for this year’s marching band season, Loafman said, including “how things are going to flow, what to teach and in what order, and what the marching band show is going to look like.”

Loafman said Gawle and Rhodes also “took some hours at the end of last school year and over the summer to start prepping for jazz band and some of the other things going on throughout the year.”

“There’s been a lot of preparation, collaboration and a whole lot of explanation on all the moving parts of this band program,” said Loafman.

“There are a lot of people, a lot of moving parts, a lot of history, and a lot of traditions.”

With a nearly 200-member marching band, Loafman said, one of his biggest challenges has been learning names and establishing relationships at Wilton High School.

The other challenge, he said, has been “learning the traditions and culture of the program.”

“Trying to get plugged in as soon as I can has been a challenge,” said Loafman. “It’s very important to me and something I want to accomplish, so that’s probably what I’ve been working at the hardest.”


Prior to Wilton, Loafman directed the marching band at Mt. Vernon Township High School in Illinois for six years.

Before that, he played with the Marching Illini band at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an undergrad.

With the Marching Illini, Loafman participated in the 2007 Rose Bowl and the 2008 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland, and was a trumpet section leader in 2009.

Loafman earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the university in 2010, and a master’s shortly after.

“Before all that,” he said, “I was a highly involved high school musician.”

Wilton High School

As Wilton High School’s new band director, Loafman said, he is responsible for “the overall direction” of the school’s music groups and helping “bring students to musical success.”

“I hope to bring a fresh perspective and some different ideas so we can build on all the great traditions that are already here,” he said.

“The foundation is so strong, there’s been so much success, the program has huge support, and the students are already very high-achieving — the plan is to continue moving that forward.”

Loafman said he loves coming to work every day and “can’t thank everyone enough” for not only welcoming him but also “doing everything they’ve done up to this point for the program to be as successful as it is.”

“I’m happy to be here,” he said.