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Retired Marion band teacher honored

Staff writer

Mike Connell, beloved band director in Marion for 25 years, won the coveted Outstanding Band Master award from Kansas Bandmasters Association and Phi Beta Mu, the international fraternity of band directors

He received the award July 20 in Wichita at the association’s annual convention.

“I was absolutely blown away, amazed, humbled, and so very honored to be included among so many great bandmasters who were past recipients,” Connell said.

His teaching career started at Dwight. After a rocky start with a number of big, strong football players in the band, he put on a football uniform and challenged them.

“Somehow, near the end of practice, lining up across from the All-State center, I pushed past him and brought him down for a three-yard loss,” he said. “The next day, the boys’ glee started learning how to sing and got a I at state. Girls’ Glee, I at state. Band, I at state. They thought I was a genius.”

Three years later, he went to Cimarron in western Kansas and got to know many other young band directors, some of whom he still keeps in touch with.

After six years in Cimarron, he spent seven years at McPherson before coming to Marion.

“Picking up a program at Marion that was truly in dire straits, rebuilding, and nurturing it, seeing it develop and grow into one of the recognized and envied programs made those 25 years fly by,” he said.

Connell credits his students with his success.

“I had great kids that made me look good,” he said.

He served as president of Phi Beta Mu for two years and was an officer with the south central district of Kansas Music Educators Association for six years.

After he retired at Marion, he was asked to apply for band director at Goessel, along with two other prospects. After doing a trial piece with the band, Superintendent John Fast told him, “They said they wanted the old guy.”

“It’s always about the kids,” Connell said. “You get to make music with kids. You get to. And you teach them how wonderful it is to make music with others. I loved being a band director and hanging out with other band directors.”

Last modified Aug. 16, 2018

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