Grove City Record

Longtime band directors hang up batons

Leaders reflect on their careers in music education

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Two longtime South-Western City School District band directors will be putting down their batons at the end of this school year.

George Edge will retire after 27 years as director of bands at Grove City High School and Bob McNutt will retire after serving 12 years as Central Crossing High School's first -- and only to date -- band director.

Both men used the words "mixed emotions" to describe their feelings upon their retirement.

"I love this job and have really enjoyed being part of this community and the band program," Edge said. "What I'll really miss will be interacting with the students and helping them grow as musicians and individuals.

"I want to affect students in a positive way, and I think music is a wonderful way to do that," he said.

His students learn a lot more than just music by being part of the band program, Edge said.

They are learning how to work with others to reach an optimal goal, he said.

"Each person is a link in the chain and the chain is only as strong as its weakest link," Edge said. "It's a bonding experience. You must rely on each other to create a strong performance."

Participating in the band also teaches students the values of self-discipline and dedication, he said.

"It's not always easy to be out there in the rain and cold to practice when there's a football game on Friday," Edge said.

"All these lessons, they are things that will apply to everything the students do in their lives," he said.

The GCHS band has received many accolades during Edge's tenure, including earning more than 90 Grand Championship awards, winning the Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship and being named Grand Champion of the Fiesta Bowl Parade in 2012, being selected to perform at the 1996 and 2002 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago; performing in the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1990 and 2000 and in the 2005 New Year's Day parade in London, England.

Edge was named the 2007 Ohio Teacher of the Year and was awarded the 2014 Ohio Music Education Association Outstanding Music Educator Award.

But Edge said the real reward for him and every teacher is the impact he can have on his students.

"Awards will come and go and fade away and trophies will gather dust and rot," he said. "It's what remains inside the kids you've taught, the lessons they'll take with them all their lives, that's what really matters and that's what's most satisfying."

McNutt has been teaching band since 1971.

"It's funny. At my first school, I was the youngest teacher and used to get kidded about it," he said. "Now I'm the oldest teacher at my school.

"After 43 years, it's going to feel strange not having to go to school each day," McNutt said. "But it's time. My son just graduated from graduate school and will be starting as a social studies teacher and I want to watch his career.

"And I'll have the chance to spend more time with my wife, which I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like. Being a band director, it's really a 24/7 job," he said. "The next (band performance) is always on your mind."

McNutt said he was "a late bloomer" when it came to music, being more interested in football in high school.

But in his second year at Otterbein College, he said, he was inspired by band director Gary Tirey.

"I felt an immediate connection with music," McNutt said. "Mr. Tirey's leadership and inspiration got me to where I am today."

And that is spending a career having fun, he said.

"This isn't work," McNutt said. "It's hanging around with a bunch of cool kids and playing music every day. I'll miss it."

After spending three years as band director at Westland High School, McNutt was assigned in 2002 to the new Central Crossing High School.

"I was the luckiest guy in the world," he said. "How many band directors get to start a program from year zero? We got to pick the uniform, pick the fight song, pick the alma mater."

Central Crossing was a new school, with students coming from the district's three other high schools, he said.

"They were all coming from different band programs with different philosophies," McNutt said. "But they all came together as one unit. The students and their parents, they were just amazing. And we went undefeated in competition that first year."

Grove City is a special community because of its love and support for high school band programs, he said.

"There isn't a better place to be a band director," McNutt said. "There's such a great tradition here. There isn't anything else like it."

Like Edge, McNutt believes participating in band helps develop traits in students that will help them throughout their lives, including the importance of hard work and dedication toward a goal and learning to work with others to achieve a goal.

Sometimes a teacher gets reminded of how far-reaching his influence can be.

At the celebration in his honor held May 17 at Central Crossing, a student from McNutt's first year as a teacher came up to greet him.

"He's a design engineer who now works at Wright-Patterson on a project he wasn't at liberty to tell me about," McNutt said. "He's been all around the world and worked with all kinds of people on projects.

"He told me it's all about communicating and working with other people and he learned all about that from being in band.

"Someone gave me a book at the ceremony filled with letters written by students of mine, both current and from the past," McNutt said.

"I took it home and started to read the first letter, and I couldn't finish it," he said. "It said such beautiful things.

"I've been so blessed to be a teacher," he said.

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