Thursday, June 20, 2013

Leaves, Toads, and Bugs oh my (but really none of those things are in this post)

Part 2

This post has nothing to do with leaves, toads or bugs.

I wanted to give you time to digest the last one and take it all in.

Was two and a half weeks enough time?

I thought so.

This post goes back to band. I thought it would be nice to mention that Mrs. Noble, our band director, retired after 33 years working in the Hamilton Heights schools.

Back in May, Mrs. Noble directed her last spring concert. Let me back up to before that.

In 1997 students asked if they went on a band trip, did they have to participate in Contest? (The full concert band prepared a few pieces to play in front of judges and were scored against themselves, it wasn't a competition against other bands.) Mrs. Noble decided that if the students didn't want to go to Contest, she wouldn't make them. They would still play a spring concert; they would call it Pops Fest. It included the middle school bands. A spaghetti dinner was added as a fundraiser.

It was so popular the first year, that they continued Pops Fest every year since.

After 9/11 they began the tradition of playing the Star Spangled Banner as their first piece.

They have played different arrangements over the years. Mostly from movie/Broadway scores. Everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Phantom of the Opera.

Last year, Mrs. Noble's father passed away. She has since been taking care of her mother and found it to be more work than she anticipated with her full time teaching job. In early 2013, Mrs. Noble (I still can't call her Chris, she is and always will be Mrs. Noble to me) made the decision to retire so that she could care for her mom. That is honorable and I'm sure was not an easy decision.

Mrs. Noble actually left the band program, right before I entered, to become the Assistant Principal at our elementary school. The band program suffered for three years (under two different directors) before Mrs. Noble felt called back when the position opened up in 1991.

I had seen the work and dedication that Mrs. Noble gave to the band when Cyndi was in high school (and in band).

It was all I wanted to do, was to be in band under the direction of Mrs. Noble.

We worked hard in marching band. We never competed in that category, but performed for home football games with Husky Pride.

You can call me a band geek and I'm proud of it.

I have many fond memories of band and the friends I had. Including this one.

I don't have a clue why Aaron was wearing a dress. I don't know where the dress came from, and I'm sure he was supposed to be in uniform like I was. I seem to recall this was before a parade. But it could have been before a football game.

Aaron deserves his own post. He was my best friend in high school and I owe him so much. He listened, he cared, he always gave me a shoulder to cry on and good advice. I guess I should write that post...

Back to Mrs. Noble's last concert.

A former student, Brian, started a group on Facebook for a farewell at this concert. We would surprise her and play the last piece with the high school band.

We didn't have the music until a week before the concert. Mrs. Noble always waited to put the concert order together based on how well the band performed each piece.

This time it was the Lion King.

The alumni would arrive while the jazz band and guard were performing in the gym. The alumni would meet in a classroom on the other end of the school. From there we would enter the stage behind the curtain and wait.

It all went according to plan. We actually had to wait in the back hallway before entering the stage. There were forty alumni who were going to play and another ten or so who were there for support, to surprise Mrs. Noble or because they no longer had instruments to play (I ended up not taking my flute because I didn't think I was going to stay to play, I had to drive back to Grand Rapids that night so I could be at Sunday school the next morning because it was the last one of the school year and it was Teacher Appreciation Sunday).

During the second to last piece, a tribute to Lionel Richie, we quietly filed in behind the curtain. Before the high school began playing the last piece, my dad went up on stage to present Mrs. Noble with an official proclamation claiming that May 19th was Christina Noble Day in Cicero. This is what he said,

"My family moved to the Hamilton Heights area in November of 1985 and I first met Mrs. Noble at the Christmas concert that year. We really got to know her when my wife and I became active in the Booster organization in 1986. We witnessed her dedication to her students and the instrumental music program at Hamilton Heights.
     In 1988 Mrs. Noble had an opportunity to become an administrator and moved to the elementary school as the Assistant Principal. After three years in that position and watching the band program go downhill, Mrs. Noble returned as Director when the position came open in 1991. When we went to Tipton Pork Festival Parade that year we took the entire high school band and guard on one school bus and the equipment went in a parent's mini-van. Now, we take four buses and an equipment bus!
In 1994 the high school band and guard took their first spring trip to Washington DC and also the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Parade. Two years later, we took the first Disney trip. These trips were dreams that Mrs. Noble had for the program and they were finally coming true. Along with Mr. Bill House, I have been privileged to have made all of the band trips to date and to share in those dreams. Pops Fest is the result of a dream that Mrs. Noble had, to have all of the bands come together for an evening of music.
     Mrs. Noble's love of music, love of her students, and dedication to the band program is very evident in the classroom, during performances and on these trips. No one sits on the bench in band. Everyone must contribute what he or she can to produce the music that is before them. She expects the best from each musician and will settle for nothing less. Mrs. Noble has made our band program inclusive, not exclusive. If you play sports at Hamilton Heights, you can still be in the band program. I dare say that Mrs. Noble has touched more students for more years than any other teacher within the system. Our daughters, Cyndi and Emily, are just two of her many students who hold the highest respect and admiration for Mrs. Noble and what they learned under her direction - not only about music, but about teamwork and about life in general.
     I know you are probably saying to yourself, when will this guy shut up and let us get on with the final piece and I will do that in just a minute. During a temporary lapse of memory six years ago, I was elected to the Cicero Town Council. I am here this evening representing the Council and to make this presentation:"

He then presented her the award.

Then, Mr. Perkins came up on stage. Mr. Perkins is retired from teaching 5th grade and he directed every musical the 5th grade performed as well as musicals performed by the high school. My 5th grade musical was "The Wizard of Oz". In high school, I played in the pit for, "Mame", "Music Man" and, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat".

Mr. Perkins was basically just delaying and was the cue for the surprise. He told Mrs. Noble he found a rose from when they performed "Beauty and the Beast" and gave her a lovely, red rose. Then he said, since it was her last performance that we should do something different. What would happen if we opened the back curtain and saw what was behind it...

The curtain was drawn and there were fifty alumni standing there with instruments. Her mouth made an "O" and she was shocked to see all these people. Then she started recognizing people. That was when the tears really started to flow. (As you will see in my shaky video, hopefully it won't make you seasick.)

Mr. Perkins (or maybe it was Brian, it's all a blur now) said that not only were we here to send her off, but that we were going to play with the band in the final piece (this still chokes me up).

She went into "Mrs. Noble" mode and got down to business. It was mass chaos for a minute while the high school band moved around to make room for those alumni with instruments. (Yes, the high school band knew about this, they had been told only a few days beforehand.)

At one point, Mr. Perkins (or someone) asked if anyone in the audience, who had been a part of the band/guard program, to please stand. From what I could see, there were easily thirty or so more people who were there!

Then it was time, the band was ready. Mrs. Noble lifted her wand for the last time (okay, the last time for a spring concert, the band still had to play at graduation) and directed the Lion King. Like my dad said, the band has grown. With the alumni on stage there was barely room for everyone.

The sound filled the auditorium. It was the best performance I have ever heard. Everyone played from their heart. After the standing ovation, Mrs. Noble started making her way through the sea of musician to hug and thank each of us for coming.

I'm so glad I stayed. Even if it meant driving home late. Mrs. Noble was, and still is, an inspiration, a leader, a positive role model, an amazing teacher, a patient director and the best teacher I had in all of my school history.

Even after all that is said, I still feel like I'm not giving her enough kudos or praise for all that she gave me. But I'm going to stop now, otherwise I'm going to run out of tissue.

This is dedicated to Mrs. Noble, for all her years of teaching us the magic of music. Thank you Mrs. Noble!

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