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Band director takes a bow after reassignment

McNary High School band director David Hodges has been reassigned to Stephens Middle School after six year with the Celtics. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s band director, David Hodges, won’t be with the Celtics next year to continue ushering them through a four-year music program, and he knows first hand the effect it’s likely to have.

He experienced it when he joined the McNary staff six years ago.

“I expected to find a highly-developed music program, but lot of kids had graduated and a lot of others decided they weren’t going to continue after the teaching change,” Hodges said. “By the time the second semester rolled around we were down to 47 students and another 11 in a separate program relearning fundamentals.”

Hodges has been reassigned to Stephens Middle School for the 2011-12 school year. The reins of McNary’s band program will be handed over to Claggett Creek Middle School music teacher Jennifer Bell and Whiteaker Middle School music teacher Chad Davies.

By any measure, Hodges has been successful in his tenure at McNary. In the past three years, 100 percent of his graduating students have gone on to play in college. The secret he said, is keeping the focus on the kids, and not playing to place the highest in any given competition.

“Many band directors get caught up in the need to perform at high levels in competition, but I like exposing them to a wide variety of music quickly, showing them the things they like and the things I think they need,” he said.

At the core of his teaching philosophy is a deep commitment to his students, but music wasn’t part of his original plan growing up in Kansas. As a senior in high school, Hodges went to his father, a prominent area band director and said he wanted to go away to college and study to become a physical education teacher. His father responded by telling him he was going to Kansas University and becoming a band director. The “discussion” ended there.

Thirty-nine years into his career, he’s realized that the subject didn’t matter so much. His love was teaching and people.

“I had every leadership position you could have in my high school and I loved people. I always wanted to help people,” Hodges said.

The joy he finds in the job is taking students as freshman who can’t play or can’t march and turning them into practitioners proficient in both.

“It’s not so much me, it’s what music can do for our sons and daughters,” Hodges said. “Some of the senior kids, they got through the middle school program without being able to play and two or three are graduating playing hard music and playing it well.”

Even though he’s departing from his role at McNary, his advice to students continuing on with the band, and those thinking of quitting, is to remember what put them in the seats in the first place.

“I want the kids to realize they’re in band because of the music. Some have stayed because of me, some have dropped because of me, but I want them to realize that they love music and that was the thing that brought them to this point. Their new teachers do, too,” he said.