Area students won’t be the only ones completing their time in high school this weekend, as three long-serving instrumental music teachers are retiring at the end of the school year.
When graduation ceremonies are held Friday at Laurens and Franklin, it will be the last time Dan Martin and Carol Barker, respectively, lead their bands. On Saturday, it will be the final ceremony for Stamford band director Dave Numbers.
At Laurens, where the graduation is 7 p.m., “I’ve really enjoyed working with the students,” Martin said. He will turn 55 in July, and said it’s time to step down.
“I’ve had a good career. We’ve made a lot of great music here,” he said.
The band has also been a perennial winner at the Sherburne Pageant of Bands under his leadership. The success in all aspects was possible because of great support from administration, staff and parents, he said. Everybody here is dedicated to that, and works really hard because they like doing well, he said.
Martin grew up in Laurens, and said it’s been a wonderful experience to spend 24 of his 25 years in teaching at the school where he graduated.
“I like to think I brought a little extra pride,” he said. He thanked his band director Joe Mone for inspiring him, adding “I’d like to think I did the same for others over the years.”
He plans on staying involved with music playing professionally with the Glimmerglass Festival, Orpheus Theatre, Catskill Symphony and others and exploring a number of other possibilities.
Superintendent Romona Wenck said Martin is an exceptionally talented musician — and he can teach.
“The two don’t usually go hand-in-hand. That is a tall order to fill,” she said. Interviews for a new music teacher are underway.
“He will be difficult to replace,” she said.
The Franklin graduation is also 7 p.m. Friday. Carol Barker (formerly Smith), is completing her 27th year as band director there. She was recruited to Delaware Academy right out of college in 1978. She started at Franklin in 1985 on a part-time basis. She had 15 students in the band then but as the program grew she became full-time.
“Its been a good fit,” she said, that was possible because of total support from the program on all levels.. She said she likes working in a small school where she deals with students in grades four through 12 and can see them develop and mature.
“You really get to know the kids and keep in touch with them,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Barker, 56, who lives in Binghamton, was recently remarried and said she is retiring for several reasons. They include starting a new life with her husband, devoting more time to playing her instruments — clarinet and saxophone in a variety of settings — and avoiding a two-hour commute.
“I feel like I’ve had a good run,” she said.
Superintendent Gordon Daniels agreed saying that Barker has “an ability to push students to get the best out of them.” This has made her program a “student magnet” that has about — of the eligible students involved, which is a source of pride for the school. With a total student population of about 300, that is “pretty incredible,” he said.
He said he was disappointed to lose someone like Barker, but with her help, they hope to have found someone like her in her replacement, Sofia DeLousia.
At Stamford Central School, where graduation is 2 p.m. Saturday, band director David Numbers will be retiring. He came to Stamford in 1990 but has had a career as a music teacher in other schools since the 1970s. Turning 65, he said he is eligible to retire. What has kept him involved all these years is working with students.
“Some days I feel humbled — they can be that good,” he said. “They have gotten me through the tough days. It’s been a remarkable experience.”
With recent changes in education, he decided this was the right time to take the next step. He has some other options but nothing has been decided. He has been working with the new band director, Unatego graduate Heather Powell, to get her ready.
School Principal Ruth Ehrets said Numbers has at least 50 percent of the high school students participating.
“The kids love him. He does a great job in inspiring them to learn their instrument in concert or marching band,” she said. “It’s a source of pride for the school.”