Student petitions to stop transfer of Morristown High music teacher

Morristown High music teacher Doug Rutan. Photo courtesy of Hannah Feldman
Morristown High music teacher Doug Rutan. Photo courtesy of Hannah Feldman


A Morristown High School senior has launched an online campaign to stop the transfer of music teacher Doug Rutan to the Frelinghuysen Middle School in September.

“With this change, the high school music department will only have three teachers (one vocal, one band, one orchestra). This will stretch the teachers way too thinly, as they will have to cover more classes than they have time for,” Hannah Feldman posted on, where 113 people had signed her petition as of the weekend.

IT'S A GO! Doug Rutan, director of the Morristown High marching band, has gotten a thumbs-up for 'A Merry Tuba Christmas' on the Green, on Dec. 22. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Doug Rutan, former director of the Morristown High marching band, pictured in 2012. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

MHS Principal Mark Manning said all core music classes — orchestra, wind ensemble and symphonic band — will remain intact.

But Rutan is returning to FMS, where he started his district teaching career 35 years ago, because one high school music position is being eliminated.

That’s because of a sharp decrease in students choosing music electives such as guitar instruction. In all, there will be five fewer such electives in the fall, Manning said.


Rutan could not be reached for comment. Manning said the teacher has told him he will miss the high school, but looks forward to teaching band students at the middle school.

Feldman and the principal agree that Rutan has furthered many musical careers during his 16 years at Morristown High. 

Rutan “has made huge contributions to our whole music department in many different ways, some being marching band director, pit orchestra director, and of course, symphonic band director,” Feldman said in her posting.

“Doug has been an amazing asset to the MHS music program and our marching band.  He is an incredibly talented musician and has been successful in sharing his talent and love for music with his students.  He is well-liked by students and well-respected by the staff,” Manning said via email.

The principal said the three music teachers staying at MHS will be able to cover the electives that students have requested.

Feldman, who will attend New York University in the fall, is a trombonist in Morristown High’s wind ensemble, marching band, jazz band and pit orchestra. She also plays French horn in the symphonic band, which Rutan directed.

Without Rutan, she contends, the high school won’t have anyone to act as liaison for the marching band during the school day, or to continue lunchtime lessons with symphonic students.

“Even if someone is hired to teach lessons, they will not have the same vested interest in the music department,” Feldman said.

The remaining MHS music teachers will have to double up, she contends, to cover electives and ensembles, “which entails studying music scores, teaching lessons, and choosing what parts of pieces need work. Imagine doing all of that work with two bands, two sets of students, and two concert orders to prepare and perfect.”

–Correspondent Emma Piascik contributed to this report.

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  1. This student should be commended for taking action in response to a change affecting other music students in her school (although it won’t affect her directly since she’ll be in college) through a well-written analysis and call to action. Students should be encouraged get involved.

    It’s unfortunate that the Morris School District is again choosing to close a budget hole by cutting music department staff. This will likely decrease the quality of instruction for many students, possibly affect marching band administration and, down the road, may well decrease the # of music students at the high school.

  2. “That’s because of a sharp decrease in students choosing music electives such as guitar instruction. In all, there will be five fewer such electives in the fall, Manning said.”

    Challenge. There is no ” sharp decrease in students choosing music electives.” More likely that MSD is channeling more money to the ever growing immigrant student population – many of which have a 6th level education from their home country.