REXBURG — Madison High School Band director Dan North put his baton down for the last time this month as he headed into retirement after 32 years as the band’s conductor.
“I will miss it. I know I will. But I also very much trust the people who are taking over for me. If I show up, I’ll be welcomed. I’ve got good feelings for them as well,” he said.
North’s former student, Steve Klingler, who teaches music at Madison Junior High, plans to take over for North. Another former student of North’s, Michael Peterson will take Klinger’s place.
“It’s a grandpa kind of feeling. It’s actually really cool,” he said.
Following his retirement, North plans to continue helping with musical education by serving with the Idaho Music Educators Association via its mentoring program this fall.
“I will be a part of that and help first-year teachers who are stranded geographically. They send retired and experienced teachers out to help the young and inexperienced music teachers be successful,” he said.
North doesn’t know if he’ll look for another job, but he wants to stay active in the community.
“I will want to have something to do or otherwise I’ll go nuts. I’ve been so busy for so long,” he said.
North had spent his entire teaching career at Madison High School where he taught not only band but speech as well. He says that the two subjects have much in common. Both involve getting in front of a crowd and learning how to deal with doing so.
“Band is an elective; speech is required. The way the band prepared to perform, and the way you prepare to give a speech, you’re required to get all the nuts and bolts in order before you start your performance. There are a lot of similarities: the stress, the fear and the anxiety. I have found a lot of common ground in doing both,” North said.
A Pocatello native, Madison School District officials hired North right out of college to work as Madison’s band director in 1987. With a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University and a masters from the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, North spied an opening for a band director at Madison, and on a whim, applied for the job.
“I went to the interview for experience and ended up getting the job,” he said.
Initially, the district hired North to only serve as the band director, and he had just one band class a day.
“I wanted to point out that they’d offered me a contract, and I signed it. If I only taught one class a day, I was being very well paid for that one class,” North recalled.
Later, the principal noted that the school needed a speech teacher.
“I had no intention of doing anything other than music — the band, orchestra, choir and general music which would be elementary music and teaching basic music. It was a very broad degree,” he said. “I had envisioned that’s what I would be doing and wouldn’t need anything else.”
Instead, North also became a speech teacher after earning the necessary accreditations.
North noted that speech classes are “self-contained” and that all the work takes place inside the classroom. Unlike English classes, North said he wasn’t required to take home papers to grade.
He enjoyed teaching speech as it gave him a chance to meet students outside the music program.
“By the time band students get to high school, they’re a select group. In speech, everybody has to take speech,” North said.
North said learning music in some form helps develop and strengthen the brain. He noted that youth involved in music programs score much higher on SAT and ACT tests than their peers who don’t participate in similar programs.
“The longer you study music, it helps build the connection between the two sides of the brain and the aspects of the brain. Music study is incredibly important to the development of children and adults. It’s keeping the different parts of the brain active — the intellectual, emotional, the physical and the spiritual.”
As North enters this next phase of his life, he is looking forward to enjoying events he couldn’t before because he was working behind the scenes making sure that the show would go on. During his retirement, North says he’ll be able to appreciate those events without worrying over them.
“I’m just going to enjoy not having a marching band season and being able to go to a parade that I’m not in — those kinds of things,” he said.