Metteer receives prestigious music award for Southeast teaching career

Southeast High School music students have recorded thousands of positive moments in their lives thanks to the noteworthy leadership of R.J. Metteer.
Metteer was recently recognized with the 2024 Duane Johnson Distinguished Service Award. He received the honor at the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association’s annual convention.
Hundreds of Knights have learned how to play skillful melodies under Metteer’s guidance for nearly three decades. A trumpet player by trade, he oversees a program that includes marching band, concert band, jazz band and pep band ensembles. He is also chair of Southeast’s performing arts department.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior Gabi Lawrey said Metteer was a positive mentor for her at Southeast. Lawrey was a two-time All-State Band selection and was principal oboe in the All-State Orchestra in high school.
“My journey as a musician was largely influenced by Mr. Metteer,” Lawrey said. “He was always the one to push me to try new things and take the leap in auditioning for honor bands or the Lincoln Youth Symphony. As a young musician, growing your confidence is one of the most important skills, and Mr. Metteer was one of my biggest supporters on my musical journey.”
Metteer said guiding music students each day has been a privilege.
“Music touches the heart, mind and soul of every kid and every human being,” Metteer said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny little kid who’s dancing around or the music you hear at a loved one’s funeral. It moves you. Music is what makes us human. I love teaching music because it touches every part of our emotional lives.”

Metteer owns a bachelor’s degree in education from Wayne State College and a master’s degree in music education from UNL. He spent four years teaching instrumental music in Lenox, Iowa, before becoming a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He began working at Southeast in August 1995.
Lawrey said Metteer’s leadership style has inspired students to aim for excellence in every situation. In addition to their musical accomplishments, Southeast students also earned the NSBA Excellence in Academic Achievement Award this year. Band programs whose members have an average cumulative grade point average of 3.50 or higher received the honor.
“If there was one thing Mr. Metteer was known for when I was in high school, it was pushing his musicians to be the best that they could be,” Lawrey said. “His leadership created an environment in which students are encouraged to expand their musical horizons and strive for their greatest potential. Whether it’s providing opportunities for solos, mentoring students through auditions or motivating the marching band to leave it all on the field, Mr. Metteer’s dedication has been instrumental to the success of Southeast’s band program.”
The NSBA Board of Directors selected Metteer for the award. Members took into consideration his longevity of teaching, his impact on students and the musical success of Southeast’s band program.

Steve Steager said Metteer’s dedication to the state marching band festival also played a key role in his selection. Steager, a longtime music teacher and former NSBA president, said people were always impressed when they visited Seacrest Field each October.
“The best way to describe the Seacrest site is a well-oiled machine,” Steager said. “From meeting with the judges, to hosting and escorting each band, to a well-stocked concession stand, there is not a detail that is overlooked. Everyone does their part to ensure the site is run smoothly. R.J. always has the best interest of NSBA in mind, making sure to communicate with the NSBA representatives throughout the day.”
Metteer said Southeast community volunteers deserved the bulk of the spotlight for Steager’s compliments.
“You can never do that without the band boosters,” Metteer said. “It takes literally thousands of invested hours from hundreds of people to do it. It comes from the dedication of all the volunteers and teachers. I might be there on site, but I play a very small role in it. This is an award for the work of many, many people.”
Metteer’s legacy has spread to numerous band rooms across the school district. Former students or student teachers of his are now leading music classes at every LPS high school except newly-opened Standing Bear. His teaching tree’s roots have also extended into multiple LPS elementary and middle schools.
“That’s the thing I’m probably the most proud of, is the number of kids who have gone on in music and music education,” Metteer said. “I’m really proud of them, because that means, theoretically, that we had a positive impact on them and they want to share that with other people.”
Lawrey said she and hundreds of current and former students owed debts of gratitude to Metteer for helping them record positive notes in their lives.
“Starting from my freshman year, Mr. Metteer believed in my abilities and gave me opportunities to flourish, from giving me solos to encouraging me to audition for a senior solo with the Lincoln Youth Symphony,” Lawrey said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gone on to continue to study music in college and earn my music minor. I am incredibly grateful for everything that Mr. Metteer has done for me, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without his support.”
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Published: April 10, 2024, Updated: April 10, 2024

Southeast High School Director of Bands R.J. Metteer smiles in the building this spring. Metteer recently received the 2024 Duane Johnson Distinguished Service Award from the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association. Southeast's band program also received the NSBA Excellence in Academic Achievement Award this year.