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Beyond the Sidelines: I Never Told My Director...

By Megan D. Bonfield, Sep 16, 2016 | Updated: Sep 16, 2016 | |
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    So much goes into a marching program. Of course there’s the show design – the music, the drill, the overall theme, but an amazing show design is nothing unless someone is there to implement it. Someone has to have the vision. Someone had the creative spark that ignited it all. Someone spent day after day agonizing over the smallest of details to make sure they were just right.

    Year after year, our band directors are responsible for creating mind-blowing shows for us to perform to perfection. They hold us to high expectations, but for obvious reason. They see something in every one of us that we usually can’t see in ourselves. They push us to our limits and sometimes even a little further. As teenagers, we usually don’t appreciate what they do for us both on and off the field, but if you were involved in the activity for any length of time, you probably had a director who impacted you directly. They are more than our directors. They are teachers, coaches, mentors, and family, and I thought it would be great to reach out and tell them just what they mean to us.

    This is your chance to tell you director something you always wanted to, but never did. I’ll start…
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    “You truly molded the person I am today. Before high school, before marching band, I was a very shy person, which usually comes as a surprise to people who know me today. I was never one who wanted to be in the spotlight and certainly never saw myself as an authority figure. I’m not sure what compelled me to audition for Drum Major at the end of my freshman year, or what you saw in me to place me in that prestigious position for the next three years, but thank you.

    You pushed me to become a more outgoing person. Although I’m still very much an introvert, I know I would never have done some of the things I’ve done in my life if I hadn’t had the experience in high school that I did. I would never have marched in college, and certainly never been Drum Major there. I definitely would never have participated in drum corps, or been Drum Major of a division 1 drum corps. Without marching band I can pretty much guarantee that I never would have met my amazing husband and consequently not had the two wonderful children that I have now.

    I know I was blessed to have a high school marching experience that many students would die for, but it was never a piece of cake. You both pushed me harder and harder, day after day. It wasn’t always fun and games, but the reward at the end of the day… Well, I’ll just let my medals speak for themselves. The entire band worked extremely hard, but without your guidance and determination as driving forces, we would never have been as successful as we were.

    So thank you. Thank you for pushing me, pushing all of us, in so many ways. Thank you for making me the stronger, more confident, hard-working perfectionist that I am today. I’m proud to say that although I’m not a band director, I am a teacher, and I hold my students to these same high standards every day. I push them to their fullest potential because you pushed me to mine. Thank you.”

    Megan Bonfield
    Drum Major, Lawrence Central High School, 1998-2001
    Directors: Randy Greenwell & Matt James
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    “What I never told my band director was that even though I may not have been the most mature student, or the most studious musician during high school, the passion with which he and his assistant directors instructed us, and how much care they put into our school's music program is something that inspired me. It's because of them that I make it a point to keep music as a part of my life to this day, both recreationally and professionally.”

    Taylor Daine
    Western High School, 2004-2007
    Director: Brian Caldwell
    Assistants: Keith Whitford & Dan Healton
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    “When I was a junior, I found out during band rehearsal that my sister died. A senior saw me crying hysterically and asked what was wrong, then took me to Mr. Ratliff. Mr. Ratliff then gave me a hug and told me that I could leave if I needed to, and then waited with me for my ride. The next day, I decided to put on a brave face and go to school despite the tragedy that had just struck, because I still wanted to perform at halftime of the football game that night. I went to the game, went to contest the next day, but missed the entire next week, but I made it to day camp and then the contest. Mr. Ratliff was one of the most understanding teachers I had. He didn't get frustrated with me when I missed so many days in a row. He gave me time to grieve and for that, I thank him. He even came to her viewing, because she was in band herself. That meant a lot to me. Thank you!!!”

    Shelby Miller
    Warsaw Community High School, 2009-2012
    Director: Mickey Ratliff
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    “I never told my band director and guard instructor how much of an impact they truly made in my life. Definitely for the greater, and I am so blessed to have had them for 5 years in a row. I am so impressed and motivated by them still. They have motivated me to be the instructor and person I am today. I believe that I truly had the best instructors, and I hope to be just as good as them one day. They are my inspiration, I truly love them.”

    Anna Huss
    Adams Central High School, 2012-2015
    Director: Michael Satterthwaite
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    “I am currently in my second year as a music education major, aspiring to become a high school band director. My high school band director, Michael Richardson, inspired me to pursue music as a career. There are many times a day that I catch myself saying, “Wow, Thanks Mr. R!” He was preparing me in so many ways that I did not recognize while I was still in high school. I greatly appreciate his compassion for me and for future music educators.”

    Maddison Kintner
    Benton Central Jr./Sr. High School, 2011-2014
    Director: Michael Richardson
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    “Through my four years as a Marching Hornet, I was able to grow beyond than just a student. The influence he left on me, left on the band, and left on the program, can never be thanked enough. A HUGE thank you for all that you have done for us. I really, really appreciate it. YOU were truly a great friend, and even more, a family member.”

    Dackota Hendrickson
    Angola High School, 2011-2014
    Director: Kevin Fogle
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    “I had always been really interested in marching band my entire life, and Mr. Schuessler and Mr. Lapka helped bring my aspirations to life. I was not the best freshman marcher by any means, nor was I a decent player, but for some unknown reason, they continued to push me to get better.

    I remember how I had several ‘freak out’ moments trying to memorize all my scales for a test, and when I voiced my concerns to Mr. Lapka, he responded, “Nahh, you'll be alright. You can do it.” Sure enough, I did just fine playing all those scales as a freshman.

    Then came the time I tried to audition for drum major. I was beyond nervous. I attended every single drum major audition practice and practiced for hours every single night, but I still had no idea if I would be the right person for the job, let alone chosen for the position. And sure enough, the list was posted and my name was on that piece of paper. Out of all the great people interested in the position, they took a chance on me. I was not the best musician, I was not extremely popular and not the best leader, but for some unknown reason (at the time), they picked me. After hours and hours of conducting and studying leadership, then putting those practices into place, I survived my first season as drum major. I remember telling Mr. Lapka that I couldn't conduct the entire show because I thought it was too much music to memorize and that I would be overwhelmed if I led the entire show. His response was “Nahh, you'll be alright. You can do it.” And sure enough, I survived an entire season of being drum major... then I also survived a second year as drum major.

    After my high school marching band career was over, I remember asking why they picked me for drum major. They told me that I had a lot of potential and that they knew what kind of person I was. That struck a chord with me and it has stuck with me ever since.

    I can honestly say, that by taking that chance and believing in me, it shaped my life for the better.

    I am currently in college and I am double majoring in music and biology. Several college professors have told me I could never participate in music and study science at the same time because I would get stressed out and fail my classes. One of my former professors even told me that “music is a waste of time,” but I just remembered my time with the CG Band and took control of what I wanted. Now I attend a university with a nationally ranked Biology program and a fantastic music program.

    I knew that I wanted to make a difference in other students' lives, just like Mr. Schuessler and Mr. Lapka did with me. I slowly started teaching high school bands in Central Indiana. Now, with the help of the education I received while in the CG Band, I teach and design for state and nationally ranked schools all over the country. Even though I am always busy with school and working with bands, I know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, because Mr. Schuessler and Mr. Lapka opened up my eyes to show me my full potential.

    Mr. Schuessler and Mr. Lapka, thank you for taking a chance and believing in me during a time when no one else did.”

    Christopher Crowder
    Drum Major, Center Grove High School, 2011-2014
    Directors: Kevin Schuessler & Joe Lapka
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    Is there something you want to tell your director?
    Send your special words over to megan@indianamarching.com.

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