Friday night was an epic evening in Greenbelt, MD. It was a night of wonderful music and tributes to my friend and colleague, Sally Wagner, as she prepares to retire at the end of this school year.
Sally is retiring after 40 years public education and 34 years at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. We shared an office from 1992-2001 and developed a friendship and musical/educational partnership that will last a lifetime. In the years that I was there, ERHS won numerous awards, including 2 White Blue Ribbons, a New American High School award, countless musical honors, and many other incredible recognitions. We took musical ensembles to England, Scotland, the Yucatan Peninsula, and locations all over the United States. We took on musical challenges and endeavors that were lofty and ultimately incredibly rewarding for the students and teachers alike. We shared in each other's successes and failures, joys and sorrows, and daily challenges. We became fast friends, trusted colleagues, and grew to genuinely care for each other and support each other on a daily basis.
Last night, each of the Roosevelt bands performed two selections, and they were all fantastic. From the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Wind Ensemble to the newly named Roosevelt Band, the students performed with precision, artistry, and passion at their respective levels. An alumni band performed at the end of the evening consisting of just about 100 alumnus from the past 34 years at Eleanor Roosevelt. True to form, Sally ended the evening with a beautiful Benediction that served as a poignant ending to the evening and this portion of her career.
Throughout the evening, several folks had an opportunity to pay tribute to Sally. Speakers included my friend Dr. Gerald Boarman, for whom the Eleanor Roosevelt Auditorium is named. The audience also heard from my friend and current principal of Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr Reginald McNeil, former principal Sylvester Conyers, and distinguished alumnus Dr Rebecca Phillips, class of '90. I was honored to be among these folks and the many others who spoke that night. There were also tributes from the Maryland Music Educators Association, The Maryland Senate, and even a congratulatory tribute from President Obama!
It was a fitting tribute to a true music educator. Sally has impacted thousands of young lives both musically and personally throughout her distinguished career. The love that was shared on that stage was simply stunning. It was clear that the students on that stage represented the many more that had walked through her classroom door over the years. Her awards are too numerous to mention even some of them individually. Suffice it to say, her impact is broad.
Friday evening was followed by a wonderful ERHS band alumni picnic on Saturday. At the picnic I had the opportunity to reconnect with so many former students that are now young professionals and young parents. I can't tell you how proud I am of each and every one of them. And, their reaction to me really warmed my heart.
In the end, it was a great weekend of reflection and re-connection. I had a chance to reflect on the importance of my time at ERHS. My years there were so important to me as a professional, musician, educator, husband, and father. And, my relationship with Sally was central to all of those areas. I am so happy for her and wish her all the best in every new adventure that comes her way. And, for those of you that are looking at potential band clinicians for coming years, book her now. I know that her schedule is going to fill up fast!!