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I'll briefly mention the 3 band directors we had in my 3 years of H.S. (9th grade was part of jr. Hi). This was late 60's, by the way. The first guy was named Jewel Tilson, and I found him pretty intimidating during the summer marching practice, and just quit going. Never did march in high school. On the other hand, I was this flute player without the benefit of a teacher, and he did put me on to working on vibrato, so I owe him for that. Next guy was A. R. Casavant, who had some fame for developing marching routines, I think. He had us memorize stuff for concert competitions, and in general was about showmanship. Expected a lot from us, and I guess we worked pretty hard. I was playing trumpet parts on soprano then. The third guy was named Carl Jones. I believe it was his first high school position, and we pretty much coasted through the year.

The fellow who really influenced me -- made me want to stick with the music was Russel Baker, who had 3 elementary schools and 2 jr. highs, I believe. So I started during a summer band session after the 4th grade with him, and was in one of this bands through the 8th grade (my 9th grade year, he left our jr. high, and we got a novice -- nice guy, but his first year). Anyway, Mr. Baker had just the right combination of firmness and encouragement to make kids like me want to stick with the instrument. He was pretty much a fixture in the area, and I couldn't imagine anyone being a better influence for kids that age,
 
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My HS band director was tapping his foot loudly a LONG time ago and I dont remember his name or even what he looked like but I remember that foot of his! On second thought, he was Mr Metronome! I also remember that he inspired me to continue and, most of all, to have fun! I wanted nothing to do with marching so he let me jazz. Even on a Bari....a man before his time!
 

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I remember my band instructor, Mr. Wambolt. I had him from the 5th through 8th grade. Very kind and intellgent man. He loved music and would really "get into it" when he was conducting for one of our school concerts.

I'm 27 years old now and I think back to those days every now and then. That man really was gold. You just never really appreciate things when you're that young.

Gary
 

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I want'a remember Miss Wanda Brown - Band Teacher, Church Organists, Town strumpet (when she was younger) and two-fisted whiskey drinker.

She lost her job to alcoholism my junior year and I've missed her ever since. She believed band should be for everybody and that even the worst criminal-minded high school reject could learn to play like Mozart if you could just throw enough conductor's batons at them and cuss them out enough. Many people now in prison know how to blow a horn thanks to her patients and foul mouth.

For all her faults, she loved the kids and love Jesus and I'm sure God welcomed her into heaven with open arms, a brand new goldplated trumpet and a fifth of Jack Daniels.
 

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Mr. Kevin Loughney

Great band director of mine who is currently going through the process of losing his unborn child. I'm not all that technical, but somehow amniotic fluid of some sort made it's way into the baby and it's not going to live very long after birth. He leaves school tomorrow to be with his wife the day before they go to the hospital for the procedure. I just thought it was great that he treats band as a family and openly talks with the band about life for at least five minutes every day.
All I can ask is that those of you whom are even semi-religious, please send off a prayer or two in his direction sometime during the next week. I've only been on this forum officially for a few days and I can tell it's full of fantastic people...was just hoping to get him a bigger spiritual base before he goes through a rough week.

Thanks to everyone, ~Klebs
 

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Okay, okay... I should elaborate on my initial post... and fit in more with the theme here.

My high school band director was very good to me; making me first chair alto in my first year over several upper classmen. However, I lost it the end of the next year for actions threatening the personal safety of the band director, and I was pretty much barred from band for 12th grade. Always able to work out a deal, I was allowed to take stage band, and not concert or marching band (something unheard of for a wind player). The director didn't like this one bit, and actually boycotted the class for the first few months; telling us to go to the practice rooms and work on charts. Well, we didn't. Now this was a depleted group; mostly me and a bunch of eager underclassmen, but with an experienced rhythm section. So during class, we raided the file cabinets, pulled the charts we liked and jammed. Everybody took a ride as well, and we opened up just about every number. Then one day while we're playing, the director is walking by, reading something, and he stops, listens, then picks up the baton and starts leading us. From there we got on famously, as if nothing had happened, and he was most generous in allowing me to... well... shine. And I still didn't have to play in concert or marching band. Oh, life was sweet.

Now he's got my son (who wonders who the skinny little kid is in the old photos on the wall), in his first year of high school, and has asked him to play bari in stage band... just like his old man did his first year of high school. Kinda cool... yup... but they've got it a lot easier than we did. They don't march at away football games anymore and they'll cancel due to threat of rain and wet field. Not like the old days for sure... but hey, nothing ever is.
 

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Can't recall much from elementary school, but he seemed a nice guy. Jr. High/High School I had 3 total directors, all of whom did a good job and made it enjoyable for me. Well, except tying up all those Fall Saturdays doing football half time shows-- but that wasn't his fault.
 

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Jim Firchow in both Jr. High School and HS. Good guy, patient and he still got a lot out of us. It was in either 7th or 8th grade jazz band that we got to play 25 or 6 to 4 and The Stripper. Fun times for a bunch of 12-15 year old kids. In high school Jim moved up with us and joined Al Harris as the band directors. Al and I didn't get along as well as my sports sometimes conflicted with both practices and concerts. Still, Al had very good taste in charts and turned out a bunch of pros.
 

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Mr. Henry Avila, my high school band director, changed my life. He was a crucial part of a very formative 4 years, and I am grateful for his presence and guidance. There was a whole crowd of us kids who gathered around "band" and as the years go by, that nucleus of kids remains. It all happened because of him. Thank you, H.A.
 

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My school had a great crew of band directors growing up, but one in particular was really the most important for me. I'd like to thank Mr. Herron (saxophonist) from Jackson Middle/High School and later at Mt. Union College for a lot of the really useful life lessons that have shaped my adulthood. I also have to thank my private lesson teacher Irv Greene, who was about 70 back then and I'm sure has long ago passed on. From both of these gentlemen I learned a love for the music and an appreciation for musicianship and all that it encompasses.

Mr. Herron was passionate about the jazz program and began with 7th grade though 12th teaching not only the music but how to be a "working" musician. We played nursing homes as working rehearsals and partially supported the program's budget though an annual big band dinner/dance that covered a pretty massive standards repertoire over the two hours. In addition to the extracurricular jazz program (only marching and concert band were in-school classes) we also had a sextet combo that played dinner gigs for non-profit and community events, Christmas sax quintet, and We travelled to Ohio State and other colleges for big-band and small group competition/recital. Over the years with the program I got to play Bari (mostly), Bass, and ran live sound. All this Mr. Herron did after working a full day as a regular band director teaching 7th-8th grade. He taught all the small skills like setting up and mixing live sound, handling instruments on the road, and even drove the bus. His son (also a saxophonist) and I were good friends and still keep in touch today. We learned real life lessons like teamwork, competition, pushing your own limits, and the value of practice and hard work. There are a few pros out there as college professors, working musicians, and sound/recording engineers that owe their start to his mentorship. There are even more like me who play a bit and still have a love for the music and playing even long after school. He's retired now, but is still playing in the local big band and other ensembles. If you're on here, thanks!

Irv was a hard teacher and maybe I wasn't ready for him when I started, but he didn't let me get away with not being prepared for lessons. He really showed me how to play the instrument and how to play with a good sound and technique. If I remember right, he studied clarinet at Juilliard and played saxophone with a few big name bands, probably in the 50s-60s. He taught me how to practice and really how to be a proper musician, but even more so how to be responsible, prepared, and to do the job without excuses. He'd yell and tell you when you were wasting his time and threw me out at least once when I wasn't prepared. I had to wait outside until my mom picked me up. He prepared me for work in the real world where excuses fall on deaf ears and hard work and results matter. I certainly owe at least some of my success in the military and aviation to him, because from him I learned how to study and be self-critical to overcome my self-imposed weaknesses. I also learned how to work for a tough taskmaster, to be humble, and to not make excuses for myself but to seek to overcome challenges. While he could make you feel about three inches tall if you deserved it, he also gave praise when it was truly earned. As a naïve kid these things are missed, but as a much more experienced adult I now know how valuable his lessons were and how applicable they are far beyond the music.

I truly believe in the value of music education, not just for the value of the arts and appreciation for music, but for the lessons it teaches that are applicable in so many other areas of life. There are other ways to learn some of these lessons, but music is such an enjoyable method for learning them while also developing creativity so much more.
 

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I’m 62, so it’s been many years since I’ve seen any of them. Band was very important to me in junior high and high school. And all my memories of my time in band are good ones. Recently I returned to playing saxophone, and I was saddened to learn that two of my school band directors had been playing in community band as recently as 2-3 years ago, but have since died. If only I had showed up just a little sooner, I could have had the pleasure of spending time with them again. I’m speaking of Joe Skaggs, who was at Coles Junior High School in Ashland, Kentucky, 1972-74, and Don Payne, at Paul G. Blazer High School, Ashland, Kentucky, in 1974-75. Two fine musicians and great teachers who had more than a small influence on me and many of my classmates.
 

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I mean... my first high school band director introduced me to Tower of Power. My second high school band director introduced me to Coltrane. I could say loads of nice things about specifics but, the best thing was honestly allowing me the ability to play, being encouraging, and trying to share their individual wealth of experience.
 

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A tip of the hat to Linda Baker, my band director at Cordova High School, 1970-1973. She, to the best of my recollection, was the one that started the jazz program, even though she was a bassoon player by training. She encouraged me to transcribe John Klemmer, bought "jazz" mouthpieces for the entire section, and commissioned "Three Movements for Tenor Sax and Jazz Band" to feature my playing at the Reno Jazz Festival. Her passion for music was felt throughout the band program - the concert band traveled to compete in the Berlin Music Festival, and many of my bandmates competed favorably at the highest levels of California state competitions and played in principal positions in the All-State band.

Thank you, Linda, for such a wonderful start to the musical path that has persisted to this day.
 

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My former high school band director turned 85 this year so maybe it is a good time for reminiscing. Story time, and since I am slowly approaching "grandpa age" its going to be a longer one, I'm afraid:

It did not go to school in the US. Where I'm from "band" is not a regular class but an extracurricular activity, which means band practice on one afternoon a week for 90 mins. Band, and choir too, are taught by regular music teachers which also teach "music education", which is mostly music theory, almost completely passive and a regular class and compulsory for all students (1 or 2 hours a week, depending on which grade you're in).

At my time, we are talking late 80ies early 90ies, and in my neck of the woods it was not very common for a high school to have a big band, i.e. the equivalent of a jazz band or stage band. Usually it was choir, classical orchestra and a recorder ensemble of some sort. The big band at my school evolved a couple of years before I joined out of a project initiative of some of my later band director's favorite students at the time and he volunteered and took the project band on as his own project and "institutionalized" it with the school (the big band was discontinued shortly after he retired so it is fair to say that it really was "his" band).

My band director was not a jazz guy. He had studied church music and his main instrument was the church organ. He had lived and studied in France for a while and I don't think that teaching was his calling but rather a pragmatic decision to make a living. While this is not a rare thing to happen it gives way to the old question whether that is the best prerequisite for a teaching job. At the school he was regarded as a kind of a crazy (musical) genius and sailing somewhat under a jester's license. He had no patience at all and I think that to this day he cannot accept that there are people in this world who do not think of music as the most important thing in their lives.

For a while, I had my band director as a regular music teacher too. Of course, we had the spit ball thing and other shenanigans, as described above, going on as well and it drove him insane when he was in the process of teaching us the most important things about Beethoven's symphonies or the finer points of Italian opera. Also, a couple of years before I reached high school age someone in the department of education had the really brilliant idea that music education class should become less passive. That meant that we all had to purchase a plastic recorder for 10 bucks at the beginning of the school year so that we could play music examples back to the teacher. Of course, each class had its fair share of hormone pumped teenagers without any god given talent for and interest in music whatsoever, who were now in the possession of a semi-lethal weapon. If there was ever an excuse for a teacher to lose their sanity, there you have it. One day in class one of my high school buddies, who had never showed even a trace of interest in music, tried his best to overblow that recorder as hard as he could, on purpose and with the full intention to turn it into a giant dog whistle and about half way through it my band director / music teacher completely snapped and literally pulled my buddy at his shirt collar out of his chair and heels dragging out of the music room where he threw him, again literally, a couple of meters through the air and down the hallway, breaking the guy's shirt collar and his golden necklace (which, yes, he was allowed to wear under the school rules back then).

Looking back, it seems that during my time at high school the system was going through somewhat of a transitional phase. During my parent's high school years such behavior would have been regarded as being fully within the teacher's authority (during my parent's primary school time the teacher was still allowed to use the cane on the pupils' hands). Today, if one of my children's teachers would act that way we parents would make sure that he would get fired immediately and without further ado, no mitigating circumstances no crazy genius type of excuses. Back then I guess it could have gone either way. After some deliberation we as a class - my buddy included - decided not to make a big stink about it and to keep parents and school administration out of it, mainly because, first, crazy genius with jester's license and such, second, my buddy had it coming and had really been pushing for the boundaries for quite some time before the incident.

Band practice was the complete opposite, of course, since everyone was there voluntarily and genuinely interested in music and there was no compulsory attendance so if something was bugging you you'd rather stay home than showing up and taking a stab at the band director.

He had favorites though and I was never one of them. If you were one of his favorites you could get almost anything from him, but if you weren't he would do his best to ignore you and, in particular, never address you directly. He would just speak into the room or to one of is favorites sitting closest to you, but you always knew whom it was really meant for. In fact, a couple of years after I had graduated and moved away from my home town he called my parents and talked them into giving him my phone number for a "matter of utmost importance and urgency". He then called me up and asked me for the contact details of another former band member who he remembered I was very close to when we were still in the band. I gave him my friend's phone number and he thanked me very politely and went on to explain at great length how he had this marvelous big band reunion concert planned and wanted to invite my friend for it and he elaborated in great detail how great it was going to be. Then he hung up without inviting me or at least explaining why he wouldn't invite me and I have no clue whether he simply had no idea how awkward that would make me feel or if he just couldn't care less.

My band director never had formal training in jazz and I don't think that he ever actively played jazz either but he believed that with a thorough education in classical music, a good deal of talent and a great ear (all of which he believed he had in abundance) jazz "was not such a big deal".

Apparently the Quincy Jones version of "Cast you Fate to the Wind"


had played a certain role in him courting his later wife and since he couldn't find a big band arrangement of the tune for purchase he transcribed it from the record and had us play it at every public performance of the band. It sounded horrible and all his education, talent and ear could not bring it anywhere close to the Big-Q's version. We still tried to play it as well and pretty as we could 'cause we found it kind of cool that an "old guy" like him (he was then our parent's age) would still go through all the trouble to give public testimony of his love to his wife after having been married for, as we saw it, "half an eternity".

My band director's musical heroes were what he used to call "the 3-Big-Bs":

Bach, Johann-Sebastian
Basie, William "Count", and
Bernstein, Leonard.

He "taught" us that Bernstein "built his career on stealing from other people, but brilliantly so." His wife, who was an English teacher at my school tried to convince him for years to join her and chaperone for a student exchange program our school had with two US high schools in the Midwest but he was much more drawn towards France. I remember him telling us in my junior year that "Basie passed on a while ago and now Bernstein too. That means there is nothing left in all of America that could be of any interest to me."

He also had great respect for Oscar Peterson. My small home town used to be home to an also small but quite reputable jazz record label with an own, and again small but quite reputable, recording studio where a number of high caliber jazz records had been made over the years. When the label went belly up my band director went down to the auction where they sold off the studio equipment and bought their grand piano with his own money from the estate and gave it to the school as a "long-term loan" because Oscar Peterson had recorded on it and he could not allow for it to "end up in the wrong hands". Whenever someone at school accidentally touched on that Steinway he used to yell: "Are you crazy? Show some respect, Oscar Peterson played on this instrument!", with most of the students of the school being completely oblivious to who Oscar Peterson was.

I know its the "say something nice" thread and the whole picture seems to be a more ambivalent one (which is probably true for most of us) but there is a lot of good and nice stuff about him in there too. Here some of the highlights I remember:

- he had great enthusiasm for music and the band in particular and could convey that enthusiasm to others and even spark some passion for big band jazz in people, band members included, who otherwise did not think much of jazz. That enthusiasm made him always go the whole nine yards, and then some. While he was getting paid for his 90 mins of band practice a week the band itself did not have a budget. Students were expected to bring their own instruments and take care of lessons on their instrument privately and outside of school. In order to acquire instruments teenagers usually don't own (e.g. bass trombone or barisax) he always had to come up with fundraising ideas. One time, he accepted a "commercial" engagement for the band in order to buy a set of trumpet mutes with the proceeds. One of the perks of band being an extracurricular activity is that there is no marching band and you don't have to play at jock events. That meant we were in it for the "pure art" and if an event was not highbrow enough for us snotty teenage know-it-alls we wouldn't play there. However, when my home town hosted its annual "Athlete of the Year" event and award ceremony and were prepared to take a big junk out of their considerable budget to have us play there, we somewhat grudgingly accepted this sell-out gig for the sake of our trumpet section having all the same mutes, anything to keep them quiet so you could hear more saxes, right? (I remember the gig very well because I played my first public solo there, over "Chameleon" while at the same time a cyclist, who was a contender for the awards, was pedaling away on a stationary bike with the lights of the hall off and a stroboscope on and I was supposed to only stop soloing when the cycle guy had reach a certain target, which was after a couple of minutes, meaning that my first solo ever was also my longest one so far. Alas, no one heard any of it since the crowd and the anouncer shouted and cheered so loudly for the cyclist that it completely dronwed all of the music). However, when the money arrived in the school's account the principal refused to pass it on to the band. With impeccable and somewhat impenetrable administrator logic she argued that since the band had no budget there was nothing she could forward the money to so the money would go into the school's general budget and be used for something more practical like a new coffee machine for the teachers lounge (I'm making the coffee machine part up since I can't remember what it was but it clearly was something equally ridiculous from the band's perspective). That week band practice got cancelled and according to the school secretary, our reliable source for all information not meant for the students, the band director had told the principal that he would only return to class if the band would get the money and if that meant that he would get fired, so be it. The following week there was a box with trumpet mutes in the music room and when the band director entered the band reheasal we received him with standing ovations. After that incident we would have done almost anything for him and the band;

- he was well aware that jazz was an almost entirely male domain and tried very hard to make band a good place for female players and encourage them to join the band. When the girl I shared the second alto chair with, one of three girls in the band, hinted that there were more promising ways to spend afternoons (e.g. meeting boys at the ice cream parlor) he went out of his way to convince her to stay in the band. I don't think he would have cared at all if I had left. When he took the band on a 1 week concert trip to France he made it very clear to us boys that not even a hint of sexism or any form "locker room attitude" whatsoever would be tolerated. Today, this may seem like a no-brainer but at the time I perceived this as something rather unusual in a very positive way;

- as little tolerance he had for people not interested in music as much support from him you could expect if you showed serious dedication and he thought that you "were worth it". I know of a trombone player who graduated two years before me and who's big dream was to study composition at music college. Since he came from a family that struggled to make ends meet and had some gaps in his musical education my band director supported him financially, i.e. gave him a private scholarship from his personal coffers, to pay for private tutoring and take the time to improve skills so the guy would have a fair chance to pass the entry exam into music school, without any expectation to ever getting repaid, because my director believed that the guy "was worth" it. While this is the only example I'm aware of, I'm pretty sure there were more.

- after he retired he started doing quarterly benefits on the church organ with the proceeds going to an organization helping refugees.

I guess if you accept his premise that a universe without music is completely pointless and one not worth existing in, he is one of the good guys, maybe even the best.

Also, I realize now while writing this down that virtually all of the good memories of high school I still have are in one way or the other connected to band, everything else was either bad or seems not being worth to remember. So, thank you for that, crazy guy, and may the god of music hold his protecting hand over you for another while.
 

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My former high school band director turned 85 this year so maybe it is a good time for reminiscing. Story time, and since I am slowly approaching "grandpa age" its going to be a longer one, I'm afraid:
That was a good story. Too bad you and the band director didn’t have more of a connection.
 
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