Zeus Retires But The Jasper Band Marches On


       Although it was not a surprise it still had its effect. The leader of our beloved high school marching band was retiring.  An email from the sainted one himself, Mr. James Goodhue, so stated it. He had hinted at it before.  But now there was the reality.  I had asked him to stay on, at least until my two youngest, Isaiah and Adina, current members of the marching band, had graduated. My first two children, Noah and Arielle, had been members of the Jasper Marching Band in their day.  There were many vivid memories. 

       We band parents live and die by the fortunes and travails of our marching band.  The band director defined and symbolized the tribulations of our young charges as they assembled weekday evenings and weekends to practice and compete. It was no mean task to convert a throng of some 200 adolescent youths into a disciplined and effective musical marching band and color guard. 

As I had written earlier: 

         “I heard the truncated blasts of the winds, the blares of the brass, and the staccato of percussion, loud and abrupt, stopping and starting, shifting and adjusting in interminable iterations, in some manic pursuit of an unattainable vision, to pluck the platonic ideal from the ethers, and magically transform this rabble into a silvery, mellifluous, marching band; it seemed a Sisyphean task from which no good could emerge, only frustration.” 

       He had been with us for 29 years.  We followed him and our band loyally as they rehearsed in the steamy summer and the chilly fall. We trudged weekends with them to distant stadiums.  The demanding schedule strained our children.  Yet we recognized that it was a worthy endeavor, participating in a storied institution with a tradition that reached back decades.  This was life properly understood and engaged: devoting oneself to honorable pursuits, spending oneself in grand enterprises, participating in something larger than oneself.

       Mr. Goodhue was quirky and idiosyncratic, a kind of mad genius. He was subject to mood swings. He criticized his young wards mercilessly. He could be mercurial and ruthless.  But it was the nature of the job and we stood by him.  He was a connoisseur and historian of music and a master musician. In so many ways he was better suited, by dint of knowledge, talent, and experience, to a larger venue in which to display his pedigree and gifts. His temperament did not quite fit in this parochial midwestern enclave. It was more subtle and nuanced even as it could be flamboyant and bombastic.  Yet here he was, and here he stayed.  Despite the intellectual and dispositional mismatch, he carried on, and the community benefited enormously. 

         “Above the din was a voice from Mt. Olympus, emanating from a Zeus-like figure, ensconced upon a mechanical perch, as if upon some cloud encrusted peak, hurling flame and thunder, scolding, hectoring, commanding his young minions to hasten or slow, play louder or softer, demanding yet better performance from his weary foot soldiers in the quixotic quest of excellence.”

         When the letter came announcing his retirement, my younger two despaired.  They threatened to quit rather than continue under some other imposter.  They would endure the trials of marching band with only one man, General Goodhue!  

       And then yet another email from Mr. Goodhue arrived shortly after the initial gut-wrenching missive, this one unexpectedly with a more uplifting message.  He announced that the band director at another local high school had been hired to replace him. This individual had brought glory to his own school and town.  Under his leadership, his band had won Class D state championship six out of 15 years and runner up another five years.  He was also a composer and had arranged the music and marching sequences for our marching band since 2012 - and for bands across the country.  

       The other school was smaller. But it was recognized in its division as a powerhouse. Jasper High School was class B, a larger school, and also a major force in the marching band universe.  I had wondered previously if this maestro would leave his school knowing how excruciating it would be to that community.  I imagined there had been discussions.  And, indeed, the challenge of working at a bigger school and one also with a great marching band tradition proved too tantalizing for him to resist. 

       When I heard the news I rejoiced because I recognized that the legacy of Mr. Goodhue would continue. I shared with my children Mr. Goodhue’s own words sent out that day in his email to the marching band family:  

“Chad has been the director at Forest Park for many years, and I am sure everyone knows the success the FP band has had, and what a class-act group they are. I think he is a great choice, and students should rest easy - I know you will enjoy having Mr. Gayso as a director and teacher.”

And so life would continue in our small town. Even without Zeus, the Jasper band would march on.  Mr. Goodhue has bequeathed us a rich musical endowment – through the infrastructure and tradition he established, the teaching he bestowed, and the example and standard he set.  And now we have a suitable successor.  Thanks, Mr. Goodhue, for the many wonderful memories.

May 12, 2019

Dr. Moss is the author or “A Surgeon’s Odyssey” and “Matilda’s Triumph” available on amazon.com. For more information visit richardmossmd.com.  Find Richard Moss, M.D. on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.








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