KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
September 13, 2022
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Katy and Houston communities mourn the loss of recently retired Taylor High School Choir Director Kevin Riehle. Riehle did so much more than make music, he inspired and brought out the best in his students and all those he met. Former students are invited to his funeral.
Katy Remembers Legendary Music Educator
Legendary Taylor High School Choir Director and Fine Arts Department Chair Kevin Riehle, 65, passed away September 8, 2022 of natural causes. Riehle retired this past May after 14 years of making music and memories at the Katy ISD high school. He leaves behind a loving family and a lasting legacy seen beyond his music in the lives of the students he inspired.
Students are welcome to attend his celebration of life that is set for Monday, September 19, 2022. Details below.
Fostered Love, Joy, and Community
“He fostered a choir program that was ripe with love, joy, and community,” says Melanie Miller. Like many of his students, Miller found Riehle to be so much more than a choir director. She and her husband, Brian had him officiate their wedding.
“He planned our beautiful ceremony with us and gave us invaluable marriage and life advice,” says Miller. “I will cherish our ceremony video for the rest of my life.”
Kevin Riehle with Melanie and Brian Miller. Photo courtesy of Melanie Miller.
Katy ISD Board of Trustee Member Dawn Champagne had two students go through the Taylor “JET” Choir program and says that her children’s happiest high school moments were found in his class.
“Kevin Riehle’s contagious love of music, his kindness, his brilliance, his patience, and his sense of humor made people gravitate to him,” says Champagne. “I truly believe that everyone who knew Kevin Riehle believed that he was their best friend. This is just how he made you feel. He has left a tremendous legacy – thousands of students, including my own, who benefited from having him as their teacher.”
“I’m so thankful beyond words for everything Kevin Riehle has done for me,” says former student Megan Bucher. “He truly grew my passion for music, believed in me when I didn’t, and made my high school experience a great one.”
As comments pour in sharing memories and love, the clear picture of Riehle’s impact to the Katy community and all those he knew is evident. While many knew his music, his passions for family and friends transcended the many musical notes he created in his over 40 years in the professional music industry.
Kevin Raymond Riehle was born in Edgerton, Ohio on December 11, 1956 to Ray and Joan Riehle. He was the oldest of 5 children.
He was a graduate of Ohio Northern and Southern Methodist Universities. His music took him around the world from Ohio to New York City and England and France. In 1996 music brought him to Houston.
Fourteen years ago he became the Director of Choral Activities at Katy ISD’s James E. Taylor High School.
J.D. Janda hired Riehle in the middle of the year after the program had a rough semester. Janda took to social media to share a memorable story of Riehle. Janda recalls hiring Riehle mid-term when most of the time mid-term hires rarely work out well. That was not the case with Riehle who went on to lead and grow the program, forever impacting the students who went through his doors for 14 years.
Photo credit: Bree Celeste King
Felt Like Family
“There is no one on the planet that could have taken the program from that moment and done what needed to be done except Kevin,” says Janda. Riehle took over Fine Arts Department Chair when Janda retired. He described Riehle as being a leader, role model and friend to his colleagues.
“Kevin Riehle was the greatest teacher ever not only was he a teacher, but he felt like family,” says former student Nick Nil. “Although we lost a local legend, Heaven gained a new legend and a new choir director.”
Riehle made a lasting impact on countless students. That music and passion sang true at home where he loved his family. Kevin and Norma Riehle have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.
Kevin Riehle with family. Photo credit: Lindsey Hortenstine
He is survived by his wife Norma, his children Lindsey Rae and Barksdale Hortenstine, Kim and Chris Greene, Kurt and Mariana Wallace, Dena and Robert Wang, and Mitchell Wallace; and his 7 grandchildren Hanna Ray; Olivia Ray and Dylan Jane; Juniper, Cecily and Lyric; and William; and his constant companion Chloe.
“If there was a picture in the dictionary beside the word dad, his face would be there,” says his daughter, Lindsey Hortenstine. “He was joyful and kind and funny and generous and supportive and the ultimate cheerleader and only slightly infuriating when I was a teenager.”
For the last 10 years Riehle was also the director of the parish choir at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. He was also the founder of Cantare Houston, a professional consort of singers dedicated to bringing music of all kinds to the community. Through his musical commitments, Riehle was always there for his family.
Kevin Riehle with family. Photo credit: Lindsey Hortenstine
His daughter, Lindsey Hortenstine says he was there for every basketball or volleyball game in middle school and every musical performance in high school. He would play the piano for her and her friends when they would sing. She recalls him crying when he played as she sang.
“It was embarrassing as a 17-year-old,” says Hortenstine. “I'm sure I rolled my eyes more than a few times. Every time I left the house he would say, ‘remember who you are’ and I found it so obnoxious. But it is the very core of my being because of his relentless repetition. And looking back now, it means even more to me. He was always proud. And I was always enough for him.”
She describes her Dad as being spontaneous and ridiculous.
“One summer I was home from LSU and he called in the afternoon to ask what I was doing,” recalls Hortenstine. “The Astros were playing and it was dollar hot dog night and there were still seats available. So off we went.”
Music At Home
It should be no surprise that music played a large role in Riehle’s home life.
“Every memory I have of him is centered or surrounded by music, from the grand and resplendent to the quiet and simple,” says Hortenstine. “The piano he played, that I begged to quit after 8 years, is the same piano my kids pound on today. He actually taught my oldest daughter how to play ‘bah bah black sheep’ on it just this summer.”
He is also survived by his mother Joan Riehle of Edgerton, OH, his siblings Karyn and Tom Schneider, Kristine and Jerome Bartley, Kermit and Denise Riehle, Kyle and Trish Riehle, and 11 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father Raymond Riehle.
Kevin Riehle with students. Photo credit: Lindsey Wester
“Mr. Riehle meant so much to many students but for me he meant palpable passion and unconditional love,” says former student Lauren Justman, who in her final semesters of pursing music education and vocal performance a career path greatly inspired by Riehle.
“He pushed me to keep improving, to chase after my dreams, and most importantly to trust the process,” says Justman.
Kevin Riehle had a way of connecting with people and many talk about his ability to bring out the best in those who taught.
Students Welcome to Kevin Riehle’s Celebration of Life
A celebration of life is planned for Kevin Riehle Monday September 19, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church (717 Sage Road.) The Riehle family welcomes his friends and former students.
The service will also be available via livestream.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers for donations be made in Kevin’s honor to the Music Ministry of St. Martin’s.
His legacy will live on in the many lives he touched over the years.
Photo credit: Emily Christensen
“Mr. Riehle helped me get over my stage fright and work towards who I am now,” says Conner Champagne. “I literally couldn’t run the businesses I do with the confidence I have without his guidance.”
“He taught us so much more than music,” says former student Lauren Cudney. “Mr. Riehle was one of those transformative teachers people always talk about.”
Cudney recalls how some students were worried he would forget them after graduation, so they convinced him to let them dip their hands in paint and leave handprints on his wall.
A 'Papa' to All
“His students certainly could never forget him,” says Cudney. “He was truly a ‘papa’ to everyone that walked through his door.”
“Mr. Riehle was one-of-a-kind,” says Melinda Stone, principal of Taylor High School. “He was fun, he was engaging, and the students absolutely loved him. When I talk to students, it was clear that he changed many of their lives for the better. I know that personally for me when I started at Taylor (in the year of COVID) he would always come to check on me and ask how I was doing which I greatly appreciated. He was so full of life. It is hard to believe that he is gone.”
Riehle’s ability to inspire and connect with students leaves a lasting legacy. Here is a quote of his that many will continue to live by:
“You are important. You are worth caring for. You are precious because you exist. Think with your heart and feel with your mind. Let your art imitate life,” said Kevin Riehle.
Katy Magazine received so many statements of love and wonderful memories about Kevin Riehle. Not everything could be included but everything submitted is being put together and will be given to the Riehle family.