The Final Cut-off, and the Passing of the Keys

In his Inagural Address, President John F. Kennedy claimed that “the torch has been passed”. That kinda sorta happened graduation evening with the “passing of the keys”.

There has been talk of Mr. C’s retirement since (and probably prior) I took the Asst Director position 5 years ago. Everyone seemed to be familiar with the rumors, except TC. In fact, there was a Spring Semester day a couple years ago when he came into the bandroom and in a surprise tone, says, “You’ll never guess what I just heard…….that I’m retiring.” I think my response was something like, “Is this the first time you’ve heard that?”

It was actually over the holiday break of Fall 2009 that he informed part of the show design team that there was a high percentage chance that he would retire.

The contract requires official notification by a certain date. Even after he had turned in the required paperwork, nothing was said to the students……until I mentioned that his retirement was an Agenda item of the upcoming School Board meeting and that he might want to say something to the students before their parents read it in the news. He did tell them.

There was the “Final Concert Band Concert” and then the “Final Jazz Explosion”, but school was still in session. The last day of school comes with the retirement recognition breakfast, but there is still graduation.

In between the last teacher day of the school year and graduation is the first rehearsal of the next year’s marching band. He uses the afternoon to go to Fort Wayne shopping and to have dinner out…..so he won’t be back in town in time to show up at the rehearsal. That was probably a difficult thing to do.

Finally is the night of graduation. I had notified the newspapers of a dramatic picture moment by explaining that the band would play a recessional for the seniors to exit the arena and that when the last student left, the director would give a signal to the band that they would end the music at the end of a phrase, and that the cut-off would represent an absolute conclusion to a 40-yr tenure of directing HNHS Bands.

In pure form, however, he decides that he will “bring them in” with Pomp & Circumstance and I will “play them out” with the recessional. So his final conducting moment was actually before the ceremony started.

But there is still monitoring the band during the ceremony. The recessional comes and goes and the band disperses…..items are moved back to the bandroom.

It’s about 10:15pm and we’re sitting in the band office. He’s pointing out this and that, suggesting we move the furniture around….more this and that….. and then he hands me his keys. He has a piece of Erie Band music on his desk that he needs to copy and shortly after handing me his keys he starts to say, “I’ll come in tomorrow to make those copies…..oh wait, no I won’t. I can’t do that anymore.”

As we close up the bandroom, he reaches in his pocket and realizes, again, “I guess you have to lock it up”. Walking down the hallway to go through the boiler room (which requires a key) it happens again.

And then we open the outside door. As it closes, he turns around and looks at it for just a couple seconds longer than normal as it hits him…..that he can’t get back in. That was a really awkward moment for ME because I didn’t know what to say. I tend to get emotional (quivery voice, wattery eyes) at those kinds of times….so I really didn’t say much at all. I think I said something like, “Don’t be a stranger”, to which he replied, “Have fun.”

I can only imagine what that drive out of the parking lot was like for him.

Oh, but wait! Those are not my keys because I am not the director. Oh well, I’ll pass them along.

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One thought on “The Final Cut-off, and the Passing of the Keys

  1. I’ve read all your blogs now. Your professional guidelines are top notch. Your personal ones, like this one, Your ability to link your company and the economy is such a common sense approach that I wonder if business would get it ;-)OK,have tears in my eyes. I know how he felt driving out of the parking lot. And there’s nothing you could have said.

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