Alumni honor retiring Goodhue with performance

Jasper High School Band Director James Goodhue, right, laughs with Jasper band alumni while introducing each member by first and last name at his last concert at the Jasper High School on Sunday.


JASPER — James Goodhue’s arms have danced through the air and guided generations of students to musical excellence since he took over as Jasper High School’s head band director in 1997.

Sunday afternoon, those arms fell to his sides, and he offered a parting bow to the audience at a competition rehearsal concert in the school’s gymnasium. The performance’s conclusion marked another step closer to the end of the storied leader’s career.

When he spun his body to dismiss JHS’ most advanced band, however, the soon-to-retire Goodhue looked over an ensemble unlike any other he’d directed during his time at the school. Sitting among the teenagers that comprise the group were 25 of his former students — all who returned to honor his legacy.

Wildcat band alumni were invited to join in a couple numbers at the concert, regardless of their current playing ability. Some were recent graduates. Others were decades removed from their performing days.

Jasper High School band alumni Joey Clark of Jasper, left, Emily Weikert-Bryant of Indianapolis and Heather Goodhue of Jasper play with the symphonic band at Director James Goodhue's last concert at the Jasper High School on Sunday. "My parents credit him for raising me," Weikert-Bryant said. "I certainly spent more time in the band than I did at home. He was a great mentor and friend."

Off the conductor’s podium, Goodhue’s hard-nosed, brutally honest teaching style can seem abrasive and intimidating. But many of the alumni in attendance hold him in high regard because of it. They value the decorated leader for teaching them lessons that still resonate years later.

“He was always really good about pushing you as far as you could go with your instrument and your music,” said Gina Hawkins of Jasper, a 1999 graduate and former drum major who performed Sunday in an ensemble for the first time since she was a college student. “It was always really interesting to see from the beginning to the end just how far you’d come and how everything comes out at the end.”

As Goodhue’s tenure at the school comes to a close, his own journey is marked by ever-growing success. He thrust the Marching Wildcats to 29 consecutive state finals appearances since joining the program as an assistant director in 1990. That marathon run included a state title in 2012, four runner-up distinctions and more top-five placements than not. On top of that, the high school concert band has finished in the best 16 groups in the state in 21 of the last 26 years. Hundreds of students under his wing have earned seats in the Indiana All-State Band — an unprecedented number compared to other programs in Southern Indiana.

“I am proud of what we have done, and proud that I was able to do my part in maintaining the type of band program that [former director] Glenn Weil envisioned, and that I wanted to be part of,” Goodhue wrote in a goodbye letter printed on the back of Sunday’s concert program. “This place, these kids, these parents, and this program are the things that have made the Jasper Band something we can all be proud of!”

Ben Schepers, a 2008 graduate who now directs a middle school band in Winchester, said Goodhue had “such a big influence on my life and a whole bunch of his former students.”

Photos by Traci Westcott/The HeraldJasper High School Band Director James Goodhue conducts the symphonic band, along with alumni and friends of the Jasper Band, at his last official concert at the Jasper High School on Sunday.

Alison Wilson, who graduated in 1993 and is now a music teacher at a middle school in Noblesville, said the leadership of Goodhue and other Jasper directors all those years ago guides her to this day.

Jasper’s symphonic band will compete in a state qualifier contest at Evansville North High School later this month. If the group qualifies, it will compete in the state finals in early May. Goodhue will also direct the band at Jasper’s graduation ceremony. He will then pass the program reigns to Chad Gayso, who has worked as the Forest Park Junior-Senior High School band director since 2004.

Current students, parents and alumni congregated in the school’s cafeteria after the show Sunday to eat and visit. Joey Clark, the future treasurer of the Jasper Band Parents Board, announced at that time that a Dubois County Community Foundation endowment is being set up that will supply band funding annually to be used at the head band director’s discretion. The endowment will be named after Goodhue.

“He changed my life,” Clark said earlier in the day. “I tell everybody that. I was a shy, little middle school student when I met him. And he burst me out of my shell and gave me confidence to do things. I firmly believe I would not be in the career I am today if it wasn’t for him.”

Jasper High School alumni Ben Werne of Paoli, laughs after Band Director James Goodhue, not pictured, thanked him for his contribution to the band, at Goodhue's last official concert at the Jasper High School on Sunday. "He was my hero." Werne, now a band director himself, said. "He's the reason I do what I do. He was a really good teacher and a great friend."

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