Boonsboro Middle School band director retires after 39 years

September 02, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Boonsboro Middle School Band DIrector Mike Beeler is retiring after 39 years with Washington County Public Schools.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO, Md. — Mike Beeler was no stranger to the need, under pressure, to fix a band instrument.

As an instrumental music teacher for Washington County Public Schools for 39 years — the last 17 as Boonsboro Middle School's band director — there were times Beeler was called upon to fix a clarinet that had been dropped during a parade. Or sometimes, he just hunted for a spare instrument before a concert began.

"I'm not trying to take the repair company's business," said Beeler, smiling in his home last week as he recalled emergency instrument repairs.

Beeler, who lives north of Boonsboro, retired from the school system effective Aug. 1.

"Thirty-nine years and 61 years of age," Beeler said.

Beeler said he got tired walking up Cemetery Hill during a hot Memorial Day Parade in May in Sharpsburg, but he'd been thinking about retiring for a few years.

Beeler said he got a good scare two years ago when he was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer, but has been doing well since having his prostate removed so that wasn't what had him thinking about retirement.

He wants to spend more time with his grandsons, Christian and Owen, who attend Williamsport Elementary School, and travel with his wife, Cathy, to places such as New Orleans, the Grand Canyon and Alaska.

He also has a "honey-do" list that could use some work.

For now, Beeler still also directs the choir at Trinity Lutheran Church in Boonsboro — a job he has had almost as long as he's been teaching.

The desire to teach music was the result of a large graduating band class at Boonsboro High that gave about six Boonsboro Middle students, including Beeler, an opportunity to play with the high school band during their eighth-grade year.

"That kind of lit the fire," Beeler said.

The experience included a trip to play at the World's Fair in New York.

After graduating from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Beeler returned to Washington County in 1972 and earned $7,200 that first year teaching instrumental music at Williamsport and Pangborn Elementary schools.

"Isn't that crazy?" he said.

But then again, a gallon of gas was 39 cents, said Beeler, who as a teen worked at the American Store, which was part of the Acme grocery chain, Bast Furniture and for Frankie Lum Sr. at the Boonsboro Esso station.

After teaching at several elementary schools and then 19 years at Western Heights Middle, Beeler got the job in his hometown at Boonsboro Middle.

"It was really neat. At first I was teaching kids of people I had gone to school with. Then I ended up teaching grandkids of people I went to school with," said Beeler, a m member of the Boonsboro High Class of 1968.

"It is the best profession you can have. A great chance to motivate students," Beeler said.

"That's been the greatest thing, seeing them grow (instrumentally) from sixth grade to eighth grade," he said.

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