Madison High School band director steps down after 32 years

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REXBURG — For some Madison High School students, it’s the band trips, quips, and moving musical moments they will remember most about Dan North, the school’s band director and speech teacher. For others, it’s the life lessons and friendships they’ve taken away that will impact them forever.

North said goodbye at his retirement party organized by students, colleagues, and alumni Thursday. North has been teaching for 32 years.

“When I first heard they were doing it, I thought five people would come and four of them would be my immediate family. So, it was comforting to see so many people here,” North says.

About 200 people or more were spilling out of the band room to celebrate North and thank him for his hard work, love, and service over the years.

“I actually moved from Rigby to be a part of his band when my parents were going through a divorce, so to have the opportunity to be part of his band was huge. He’s definitely touched the lives of so many of the people that were part of it,” former student Erik Phillips says.

Four generations of band directors at Madison High School. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

Phillips and other band alumni joined together to play a tune for North for old times sake. The students had about a months notice, and 15 minutes of rehearsal time prior to the celebration.

“Some people barely looked at the music. It was a little rough, but you could tell that all of our hearts were in it,” Phillips says.

“They were good. Some of them could have practiced a little more, but they were good,” North says.

Many former students provided some remarks at the event, including a former trumpet player, Alan Young, from the class of 1991.

“It was great. He loves to tell jokes and so it’s always very funny and fun, but he’s also an amazing musician and so we learned a lot of great things from him,” Young says.

Students played for Mr. North during his retirement celebration. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

Young’s daughter now plays trumpet in the band as well.

Madison Junior High School band director Steven Klinger will be taking North’s position.

“I feel good, it’s exciting,” Klingler says.

Klinger was the natural selection for the position as he’s been assisting alongside North for the last 19 years.

“He’s the reason that I’m teaching. I learned (a lot) from him and I’ll continue doing a lot of the same stuff that he does,” Klinger says. “He’s still in the area and we’re still going to use him. He won’t be gone, he just won’t be here every day.”

North grew up in Pocatello and studied at Idaho State University, as well as Vandercook College of Music in Chicago.

He was inspired to play the French horn in elementary school when he saw his school principal’s son carry it off the school bus and into the principal’s office daily.

Dan North and Steven Klinger during his retirement celebration. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

“He carried this really cool instrument with a weird case and it had this weird bell poking out of it. It was the French horn and that’s what I fell in love with. Then I practiced and I got good at it, and it’s been a wonderful connection,” North says.

Teaching at Madison was North’s first job out of college in 1987. He says he’s really been a part-time band director and a part-time speech teacher.

“When I got to Madison, they only had enough students for one band class, so they told me, ‘You gotta do something else,'” North recalls. “The principal had already worked it out so I could go back to school, pick up both English and speech endorsements.”

North says he doesn’t have firm plans now that he’s retired, but he’s grateful for the gift teaching has been. He has a message for his students.

“I would have to say that they need to keep their dreams going and get passionate about something and then pursue it,” North says.

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