Today I paid final respects to a man who was very prominent in my formative years.
We all have had teachers like that when we were growing up. These people touched our lives in ways that we cannot always express. They are indeed, a part of us deep down inside, and death can never take that away.
Darwin H. Bistline was the director of the marching band when I was in high school. Under his direction, the AAHS marching band won first place awards in 15 of his sixteen years at the helm. He retired in 1982, the year I graduated.
They had several video montages for guests to watch, featuring marching bands from the late sixties, the seventies, and even a few pictures from my high school years in the early eighties. They brought back many memories–band camps in the heat of summer, cold parades in November, and band trips in the spring. Back in the day, the high school band was a fixture in the community and brought a sense of pride to the hometown. Schools actually provided uniforms and weren’t cutting music programs from the budget to make ends meet.
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d lead the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
We were young and sure to have our way
I guess its true. You can’t go back. You can never go back.
I thought I would meet more people I knew at the funeral home, but alas, I was alone except for my memories. Nearly thirty years separates me from that time in my life and many of the people in our band are spread across the country.
One montage showed countless pictures of Darwin and his family. Sometimes, as students in school, we forget that our teachers have lives just like the rest of us. I saw him as a young director and you could see the fire in his eyes. He was a demanding perfectionist when I knew him in the twilight of his career, but there was another man I never knew who preceded that one.
At one point, I even considered a career in music–to become a band director–because of the influence this man had in my life at that time. In college, I joined the marching band and even designed one of our half-time shows. But I didn’t have the musical skill or ear and my interests were drawn elsewhere. I can’t even carry a tune in a suitcase.
Mr. Bistline taught his students discipline and a strong work ethic. Do it with spirit, tradition and pride. That was his slogan. STP.
I still get chills when I hear his–our–signature march, Barnum & Bailey’s Favorite. To this day, I occasionally throw some march music into the CD player and I know my appreciation for this music came from him.
The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I’m just the living legacy
to the leader of the band.