The entrance hall to the Monroe County Fine Arts Center echoed with the sounds of excited students and proud parents. This event, labeled a “Farewell Concert,” had a very special meaning for my daughter and me. My son-in-law, the director of The Mary Persons High School Band, was the one saying farewell.
My daughter, now the proud Mrs. Thompson, wife of Eric Thompson the conductor, beamed as she led me down to our seats on the second row. The Fine Arts Center smelled brand new, and its Georgian architecture fit perfectly in the pines near Forsyth.
The school’s principal, decked out in a grey suit, greeted family members at the side of the auditorium, and county school board members roamed the space shaking hands and kissing babies. Several band parents came down to our seats and greeted my daughter warmly, even if she was the primary culprit in taking her talented husband away to the wilds of Kansas.
I think that it would be safe to say that at that moment thousands of young singers and instrumentalists were playing scales, singing exercises, and mentally preparing for an academic rite of passage, the spring concert. Concert halls and churches from Oregon to Florida fill at the end of the academic year and resound in joyous music making. Family members from tiny children to frail seniors filled the space in the middle Georgia hall, and a sense of pride was palpable.
Okay, I admit that I am completely prejudiced, but Maestro Thompson cuts a fine figure in his conductor’s formal white tie and tails. He exploded on stage like a super nova with baton in hand. He is musical and personally charismatic. His students adored him.
A podium stood stage left and before it a band director’s fantasy wish was arrayed. Trophies, plaques and other awards were displayed and brightened by a spotlight.
Between the splendid musical selections the maestro bounded over to the podium and recognized student achievements of which there were many.
I learned that not all the student winners received physical honors. The young flute player who received a scholarship to a famous college, but who goes home every day after school to take care of her brothers and sisters and elderly grandmother, was an unsung hero of the evening.
I marveled at a talented instrumentalist, top seat at Georgia All State, yet also named the school’s star student in wait for it … math! She will attend a major school next year pursuing her numerical dreams. I hope she keeps her music making up!
We lingered long in the beautiful performing space after the last note died out. Parents posed their kids with the departing director, and there were many tearful expressions of appreciation, and dare I say it, love.
And, like band and choir directors all across the country, my son-in-law was the last one to leave. He was the last one to lock the door to the band room after making sure that all the percussion instruments were secured and tubas had been placed in instrument lockers.
One summer recently, Eric’s principal stopped by the band room and asked him what he was doing. Eric replied that he was planning this, arranging that, and in general doing what needed to be done. The principal demanded that he go home, saying, “summer is a time for reflection and recharging.” Eric went home, but he was back the next summer day. And the next.
Maestro Thompson moves on now to the next chapter of an exciting life. He has a graduate assistantship at Kansas State University where my daughter, his wife, works. With a proud and accomplished bride creating her own legacy, he will excel there I have no doubt.
We ended the evening at that bastion of culinary art, Cracker Barrel. Eric’s parents joined us at the table as we told tall tales of bands, choirs and college days gone past.
I don’t know the spring concert schedules in your neck of the woods. I do know the events are usually free, highly entertaining and inspirational, and just perhaps, one could step up to the band director, orchestra conductor, or choral director and say, “Job well done!”
Oh, and well done, son-in-law! You make us proud!