Today as I watched my small hometown’s homecoming parade, I was thinking about my old high school band teacher. It’s been 26 years since I was a high school student and I can’t honestly say I was ever particularly happy to be a band student while I was growing up. Yet as the cadence of my son’s snare drum led my alma mater’s little marching band in front of me, my mind drifted to a place in my memory I hadn’t visited in many years. I smiled as my mind rested on my stern and tasking band teacher. Suddenly my heart swelled with a little stinging surge of pride and the magnitude of what an honor it is to have been a part of the band under his direction so many years ago. It was an especially touching moment. You see…Mr. P is a legend now. Tomorrow his family and our small community will say goodbye to him as he is laid to rest.
From the perspective of my own growing sense of mortality, I find myelf reflecting on my band teacher’s legacy and his impact on my life as well as so the many other students who matriculated through our small rural school district. Over the past couple of days, my facebook newsfeed has been filled with posts from other alumni who heard the news of his passing and felt it impact them personally – a sudden reconciliation and posthumous recognition of how significantly our band teacher impacted the lives of those he taught and those who grew up to the sounds of the high school soundtrack that he provided.
I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise my band teacher to know most of his students remember him with an appreciation that has only come through the passing of time. I’m sure he’d snicker (in the way that he did) to hear his former students are laughingly recalling his tedious need to replay individual measures for an entire hour or until we got it right, his relentless criticisms pushing us to perform at our best rather than just “well enough,” the way the spittle would form in the corner of his mouth while he chewed our butts out while reviewing a performance tape and his often iterated love of “the paddle.” Mr. P wasn’t an easy man to please, but once in a while our little band would nail it. And when we did, his face would literally shine with pride. I’m pretty sure that same pride would be shining today – knowing how deeply his life impacted those he taught and the ongoing impact of the legacy he leaves behind.
May we all have the strength to be so relentless in our demand for the best from others. May we all be so passionate about what we do that we pull success from others in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. May we all invest ourselves in others in a way that leaves them better than they were before they knew us…even if we have to sacrifice acceptance, understanding and appreciation today in order to earn it tomorrow. May we all strive to leave a legacy upon which others can proudly stand and say “I am who I am today partly because of the person you were while you were here.”
Farewell, Mr. P. Thank you.