The homecoming celebration for Wheeling High School in Wheeling, Illinois had a special event attached this year. As part of the festivities, invitations were issued to all previous members of the bands throughout the years — not an easy task considering all the band students that attended Wheeling High School since 1964!
Current director Brian Logan extended a special invitation to the former band director, Dean R. DePoy, to attend and conduct the national anthem at the evening’s festivities. Mr. DePoy was the first director of bands when the school opened in 1964 and was the driving force in establishing a highly respected and distinguished band program that exists there to this day.
As a graduate of Wheeling High School, I was shocked and surprised when one day in early autumn I received an email from a fellow student from that era letting me know about the plans for the event. I had not been back to my alma mater in years and was surprised anyone from there could still find me (I graduated a LONG time ago). As a student I was a member of the band program under Mr. DePoy and looked forward to seeing him and my fellow band members again.
As it turned out the attendance was exceptional and the warm reception from the current band members far exceeded anything I expected. It was extremely gratifying and heartwarming to see fellow band members that I hadn’t seen since high school — but the high point of the evening was getting to visit with Mr. DePoy after all these years. All of us, his former students, had the same first impression: “He hasn’t aged a bit!” Though many of my classmates seemed to have aged very little, it was remarkable at how unchanged he looked. Several of us commented that he looked better than most of his former students who were much younger than him! Watching him conduct the national anthem instantly brought back memories of many performances we had under his baton, and how we as band members grew together and formed strong bonds of friendship that have lasted throughout the years.
It was an event that I won’t soon forget, and on behalf of all of the band alumni I want to thank Brian Logan, director, and all the members of the Wheeling High School Band for their thoughtfulness and efforts in hosting this event. I hope sharing this story may encourage other schools to consider making this part of their homecoming activities.
There is so much joy generated when you put together people that bonded through their many music experiences. Memories and friendship abound, just as all us “Wildcats” experienced on that cool, pleasant fall evening.