A final farewell after 50 years

Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
Dan Nawrocki directs the Reynoldsburg Marching Band for his 50th consecutive homecoming game.  Nawrocki retired from teaching in 1986, but returned to Reynoldsburg High to direct the band and the alumni band each homecoming. This was his last year.

After 50 years directing the Reynoldsburg marching band and the alumni band at the homecoming game, Dan Nawrocki conducted his last halftime show.

Nawrocki decided it was time for him to step aside so that the spotlight could move to Brian Stevens, Reynoldsburg’s current band director.

The decision was a "combination of 50 being a nice round number of consecutive years without a miss and Mr. Stevens teaching 16 years," with many of his alumni returning for homecoming, Nawrocki said.

"I just felt it’s his turn. I didn’t want to be selfish. Some of my students date back to the 1950s and are slowing down – I’m not, but they are," he said.

"I have very mixed feelings (about stepping aside). I certainly would not be opposed to coming back as a guest conductor," Nawrocki said.

He began teaching at Reynoldsburg in 1958 when there was only one school, so the band included students from elementary through high school ages.

One year in the ’60s he contracted the Asian flu and would have missed the homecoming game, but the student council rescheduled it for the next home game to ensure he could direct.

In the 1980s the band won the John Philip Sousa Sudler Flag of Honor Award, making Reynoldsburg the first high school band in the state to receive the prestigious international title.

He retired from teaching in 1986, but continued to direct the alumni band at homecoming.

"Personally I don’t know of any other high school that has an alumni band," Nawrocki said. "It’s been a thrill for me."

For his final performance, 120 former band students representing eight states and six decades returned to join the band.

To honor him, Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud issued a proclamation that he presented at the game and afterward the band boosters threw a party with cake and pizza.

"He made a difference in everyone’s life," said Barb Irvine Cotner (flute and piccolo 1975-78). "He not only challenged us to play better, but to also live our lives better. We were a very respectful and disciplined group."

Dr. Jon Woods, director of the Ohio State marching band, also attended the game to honor Nawrocki.

"Having Dr. Woods here – I was very moved by that," Nawrocki said.

Nawrocki has played trumpet and marched in Script Ohio since 1952, although he said this year may be his last as a member of the alumni band.

"Next year I will be 75. They move pretty fast down the field – three steps for every second. It can be very challenging," Nawrocki said.

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