Band director and dance coach form GCU’s ‘power couple’
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s Paul and Jacque Koch know how to make a marriage work. They stick together.
Paul Koch, GCU’s band director, whose surname is pronounced “Cook,” met Jacque Genung-Koch, GCU’s dance coach, who goes by “G.K.,” at band camp. He was coaching the drum line at Tempe’s McClintock High School, where G.K. coached dance.
The couple married in 2002 and later collaborated while in band and positions at Arizona State University. But they envisioned combining their efforts in a college athletics setting. The opportunity came when Paul accepted the job as band director in May 2012 and G.K. followed him to GCU two months later.
Now they bring excitement to GCU Arena basketball games, combining high-octane pep band melodies with choreographed dance routines to energize fans of the Antelopes.
They view their jobs at GCU as just another facet of their marriage.
“Marriage is work, and a lot of it deals with communication,” said Paul, 39, who directs more than 100 students in five GCU bands: the Thundering Heard pep band, the Thunder Big Band, a wind ensemble, the Thunderstruck percussion unit and a concert band. He also teaches courses in instrumental music.
“(We) work well together and when we communicate, just like in marriage, we end up complementing each other well,” Paul said. “So then the band doesn’t just sound good while the dancers look bad. We’re both at our best.”
Paul wanted to be a college band director while coaching the drum line at Perry High in Gilbert, and he jumped on the opportunity when the position opened at GCU. He requested a leave of absence from Perry to test the waters, planning to return to the school if the move wasn’t the right fit. He wanted to be sure the move to GCU was best for G.K., who worked at nearby Basha High, and their son Paxton, now 7, who attended elementary school in Gilbert.
Perry’s principal advised Paul to “go all in” as an Antelope or remain at Perry, and Paul accepted the GCU job while on a family summer vacation at Ellis Island. He purchased a miniature Statue of Liberty figurine to commemorate the occasion, and it sits on his desk at the University to remind him of his decision.
Emily Stephens, who oversees GCU band, cheer and dance as spirit coordinator, spoke to Paul about wanting to interview G.K. for dance coach. After G.K. accepted the offer, the Kochs immediately began brainstorming ideas for combined routines. Their most popular is a pregame routine by cheer and dance set to the thundering rhythms of large metal trashcans serving as drums for the Thunderstruck unit.
“Paul called me and said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, because I know you can’t say no, but this position opened up. Are you interested?’” said G.K., 36, who danced at ASU for four years and monitors GCU student teachers along with coaching dance.
“I told him, ‘I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to make this work,’” she said. “I interviewed, and thankfully I was a good fit for the position. I have been in love with the team ever since.”
Stephens said Paul’s and G.K.’s relationship has helped band, cheer and dance to work together to develop the advanced routines expected of NCAA Division I programs.
“Having G.K. and Paul here, being married and having that connection, is great for the spirit program because they’re working so closely together,” Stephens said.
“If you don’t like the other person, it might be tough to work together, but since they’re married, we don’t have that problem.”
The Kochs happily share the entertainment spotlight at basketball games and make a point to consider the other’s work when devising routines. G.K. said they often discuss routines over dinner at home and suggest ways to bring out the best performances.
As with all couples, there can be disagreements.
“I try to pick songs that work for the dancers, but that’s hard because I like to push the tempo,” Paul said. “She gets on to me about that sometimes.”
“He likes to increase the pace and I have to say, ‘OK, dude, you’re going too fast, you’re making us look silly,’” G.K. joked.
Paul has served as a stand-in dancer during some living-room brainstorming, and G.K. often overlooks the dancers’ smoking shoes caused by the band’s torrid pace.
“I don’t know how he teaches and coaches five bands all by himself,” G.K. said. “He’s doing great things. I’m very proud of him.”
They plan to continue to use their work relationship to improve their marriage.
“She’s a definite inspiration to me, and I know that sounds cheesy because she’s my wife, but she is,” Paul said. “That’s the great part about her. She inspires me to make myself better.”
Reach Cooper Nelson at email@example.com or 639.7511.