Your first band director has the power to make you love music for the rest of your life. Your child’s first band director has the power to impact not only your child but also generations to come.
As a student, you tend to see things based on how they impact you. As a parent, you see things through your child’s eyes and their friends’ eyes and their friends’ parents’ eyes. You have greater perspective on the lessons being taught. And of course, educators have the greatest wisdom of all as they see all of their enthusiasm mirrored back at them in the eyes of current students and past students throughout many decades.
In October, my son and many students in the Sycamore Community Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, lost their first band director: Lonnie Stover.
I attended Stover’s memorial service, which was filled to capacity with mourners sitting in every chair and standing along every wall. I was especially moved by the poise shown by his two children. Despite their obvious sadness, they played several of Stover’s favorite songs in a brass quartet to start and end the service. Their professionalism and calm during their performance seemed a testament to their father’s influence as a music educator.
As we paid our respects to Stover’s family, I stood in line with other parents, current students, and Sycamore alums who shared photos of their time in band umpteen years ago.
During his 20-plus years at Sycamore, Stover had taught beginning band, junior high choir, elementary general music, music theory, guitar, rock music, percussion ensemble, indoor percussion, jazz ensemble, and marching band. Most recently, he also served as the school district’s music supervisor.
But the beginning band program in 5th and 6th grade remained a favorite of Stover’s, and he stayed involved as the head director even with his more expansive job as music supervisor.
Stover educated not only the students but also the parents. I’ll never forget my son’s first concert two years ago when Stover walked the audience through the students’ first few months of learning—from opening their cases to buzzing on mouthpieces and then finally to playing “Hot Cross Buns.”
Because of Stover, the band programs flourished at Sycamore. As just one indication, this year’s junior high band program is one of the largest in Sycamore history due to strong retention from beginning band.
As a parent with obvious interest in music education, I had looked forward to many years to come under Stover’s leadership. I am saddened to think about what could’ve been but am also glad to know that Stover laid a foundation in music for my son, for his friends, for the other music staff, for generations before, and possibly for generations afterward.
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief