They’re jacks of all trades, but they might just be masters too. Barton’s new vocal instructor Sara Oberle and her husband Curtis, who will teach guitar lessons, bring as much depth as breadth to their respective areas of expertise.
Sara, a Great Bend native, has taught music at every grade level, from pre-kindergarten to college, and to a diverse audience including public and private settings and through programs like the Harmony Project KC, which gives low-income, at-risk children access to music education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Bethany College and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City.
She has participated in two Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshops and performances by audition: one with famed conductor Robert Shaw and one with noted German tenor Peter Schreier. Other career highlights include co-conducting a choir tour of Scandinavian countries and attending the Voice Care Network, the World Choral Symposium and national and regional ACDA conventions.
These experiences have molded her into a potent example for rural students; living proof that grand adventures and great accomplishments are waiting to be seized by anyone with enough work ethic and passion. She said she hopes to help other central Kansas students unlock their potential while building upon the tradition established at Barton.
“Not a lot of people return to rural areas, but I felt a call to share what I have learned,” she said. “I hope to share it with the students and give them exposure and inspiration, and encourage them.”
She said the work has so far been exactly as expected.
“I’ve always wanted to teach full time at a college,” she said. “What I like about community c
ollege is the pace and the ability to really become acquainted with colleagues and students. Barton has a healthy culture among the faculty.”
Curtis said his wife is up for the task, and shares her passion for that mission.
“It’s important for us to bring that perspective,” he said. “I always thought big opportunities were for other people, but then when I enjoyed those opportunities in my career I realized they’re for everyone.”
Curtis hails from Claflin and started playing guitar professionally in bands at the age of 16 and gained experience with a variety of stringed instruments including bass, banjos, ukuleles, mandalins and more. Hand him something with strings and he’ll make it sing.
“My college resume was spotty because I would take off to go perform as I received calls from bands needing a guitar player,” he said, adding that he eventually found himself in the Berkley College of Music in Boston. “There were more guitar players there than people in Claflin.”
He also received a master’s degree in music from Kansas State University.
His experience is as varied as his talents. Besides playing for bands, Curtis has played guitar for the Kansas City Chiefs band and national traveling Broadway shows including “Shrek the Musical” and “The Lion King.” At the other end of the spectrum, he has performed at birthday parties and weddings. He has also taught guitar playing through private lessons and at the college level at KSU and Park University.
Curtis and Sara met at Bethany College, but then went separate directions. They later met during a summer between semesters in Great Bend when “sparks flew.” They have been married for 23 years and enjoy sailing, gardening and cooking together, when they’re not singing and playing.
The Oberles said they’re glad to be back in central Kansas.
“It feels like home,” Curtis said. “It’s nice to be back where the people are nice and the air is clean.”