Goodhue reflects fondly on time as band leader

Photos byTraci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper High School Band Director James Goodhue conducts the symphonic band during school on Monday. 


JASPER — James Goodhue didn’t tell a soul when he sent in his retirement letter.

Rumors that he was thinking about stepping down had swirled for some time. His wife, Heather, knew he planned on turning in the keys to the perennially powerful Greater Jasper band program, but she didn’t know when the announcement would be made.

Goodhue didn’t want anyone to know until it was official. Known for his no-nonsense teaching style, he doesn’t like people in his business.

Heather received the news when her phone dinged while the two were out to eat on Monday. After nearly three success-filled decades with bands in the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation, her husband’s retirement was officially approved by the district’s school board.

He will not return as band director next school year.

“Probably the biggest thing is ... the being in charge of the marching band,” he said in a Tuesday interview in the high school band office, a room with walls adorned with a career’s worth of newspaper clippings of past victories and photos of Goodhue and his students. “I just didn’t want to do that any more. It wears on you. Just being in charge of that many people and parents and everything that goes along with that. And the activity has changed so much to where I feel like it’s just passed me by.”

He’s quick to say he’s not burnt out on band. Goodhue still enjoys giving one-on-one lessons, serving as the director of the top high school concert band and assisting with woodwind instruments at the middle school. It’s a great job in a great community backed by a supportive administration, he said.

But he has grown tired of being the one in charge. If he was a younger man, he’d figure out how to move the marching band in the direction of modern marching ensembles, whose shows are theatrical and place an increasing importance on choreography and props.

Jasper high school Band Director James Goodhue will retire at the end of the school year.

At age 55, however, his urge to compete has diminished. Combined with other, personal reasons, Goodhue said he weighed the possibilities and determined the end of this school year is the time to leave.

“I’ve done it enough,” he said. “And I’ve got enough out of it, and had the opportunity not to do it. I guess that’s the main thing — I have the opportunity not to do it, so I choose to take that opportunity not to do it. For a number of reasons.”

In a 2018 interview with The Herald, Goodhue said winning was a Marching Wildcats staple even before he arrived as an assistant director in 1990. But since he joined the program, the group has strung together 29 consecutive state championship appearances, translating to a state title in 2012, four runner-up distinctions and more top-five placements than not. Most recently, in the fall of 2018, the band placed fifth out of 10 ensembles in Open Class B at the Indiana State School Music Association Finals.

The high school concert band has displayed similar prowess during Goodhue’s time at the helm, finishing in the top 16 groups in the state in 21 of the last 26 years, including a third-place finish in 2003 and a seventh-place finish in the spring of 2018.

“We were successful because it’s a really good setup,” Goodhue said. “There’s three directors ... we’re all competent, above-average teachers. Good kids. Lots of money from the band parents. Lots of support. It should be successful.”

Even after netting all those accolades, what Goodhue remembers most fondly are his former pupils.

“Mostly it’s just the students,” he said of what sticks out to him when he reflects on his career. “A lot of them are still in the community. They’re old now. They’ve got kids. Mainly, the good stuff is that. It’s not a specific event per se, but I’ve had a lot of kids in the band.”

There are some things Goodhue wishes he could do over. He tends to dwell on his mistakes, like regretting times he was in the wrong when interacting with parents of students in the bands.

Jasper high school Band Director James Goodhue, left, collects music from sophomore Tyler Kelly after symphonic band practice during school on Tuesday.

In retirement, he plans to continue giving private lessons to Greater Jasper students and to potentially expand his tutoring to kids at other schools. He’s hopeful he will be able to keep doing the parts of his current job that he likes while avoiding the headaches and stresses that come with leading one of the historically best band programs in Indiana.

“If I can do that, help somebody out and make some money, that would be awesome,” he said.

Goodhue will continue living in Jasper with his family and remain a substitute member of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. He and Heather have two sons, Jack and Jace.

Tracy Lorey, Superintendent of Greater Jasper Schools, wrote in an email that the district is in the beginning stages of searching for his replacement.

As Goodhue left his office on Tuesday, he said he’ll soon have to begin the process of removing all the photos, notes, and plaques students have left on the walls over the years.

It will take quite some time.

More on