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Bill Stephens: Leading by example

August 29, 2011
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

The hectic nature of a marching band's performance season challenges everyone involved in the process.

Maintaining a cooperative attitude about the entire process and its unique challenges is something each of the adults involved in such efforts should readily put forward.

It is a great way to teach by example, something Buckeye Local High School marching band's director Bill Stephens knows and makes a point to practice when working with the 130 members of the polished and popular group.

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This month's spotlight “HEY! That’s my neighbor” honoree is Buckeye Local High School Music Director and Panther Marching Band Director Bill Stephens. The band, like similar organizations in the region, is well prepared for the challenging season ahead as their hard practiced performance skills and musicianship put the finishing touch on the high school football experience in the Ohio Valley. Stephens, who took the field commander’s station during a pre-season performance for family and friends, is an integral part of that preparation.

Stephens, who also serves as the high school's music department head, said that being the band director is a job he absolutely loves both on a personal and professional level.

A husband and father of a busy teenage daughter himself, he knows from first-hand knowledge the positive difference in the marching band experience that can happen when it is backed by supportive parents, siblings, and friends.

He understands the commitment it takes from every member of the family to make a marching band experience fun, rewarding, and the kind of fine points that come with a student's decision to commit to making this an enjoyable experience.

The level of appreciation Stephens has for his band's support network is genuine, and was immediately evident to those gathered at the high school for the unit's first performance after a very busy band camp week.

The afternoon was blistering hot and there was no available shade or relief from the direct sun and unforgiving humidity.

It was in this environment that Stephens took the opportunity not only to thank the students for their work ethic and focus on improving the quality of their individual musicianship and performance skills but also complimented all for weathering the situation without complaint.

But the students were not the only ones to be recognized for their dedication, and willingness to see the essential preparation process throughout: band parents, nurses, other teachers and alumni were each recognized by name and called to the front by Stephens to publicly receive a round of applause in appreciation for their selflessness and dedication to making the experience a positive and productive one for all.

Though some may say why bother to make a big production out of simple thank you message.

Then there are others, like Stephens and his team who know a positive - neighborly - approach to even the most stressful challenges can go a long way toward a genuinely positive outcome - one to be shared proudly with neighbors, family and friends.

Being a neighbor can easily mean different things over the course of a year, as changing seasons bring various scheduling and weather-driven opportunities to do any number of things: good things, right things, even things that just make others smile back if for no other reason than that they are your neighbor.

Simply put, these are chances to be a good neighbor-to do something which makes another's world a little easier, brighter or interesting.

This weekend marks the beginning of the local football season. It is a time when organization, cooperation and appreciation for even the smallest of deeds done for a neighbor needing an extra pair of hands, an extra seat in the car heading to the stadium, or an extra ticket to the game can have added importance.

In numerous homes across this region, the beginning of the high school football season signals the beginning of a marathon of sorts that won't be completed for some families until post season championship games have been decided.

It is the time of year when parents, grandparents and other family members who would normally be home getting dinner ready for their family have been busy shopping for several hundred pounds of food to be purchased in bulk, prepared and sold from local football stadium's boosters concession stands before, during and after the game.

Without these willing volunteers-our neighbors-getting busy families fed and to the stadium in time for everyone's appointed responsibilities to be met would be next to impossible.

To top it off, most of these volunteers offer smiles, laughter and manage to have fun all while preparing food enough to feed an army of familiar faces, not to mention surviving the cleanup challenges.

This is the time of year when families whose kids are football players, band members, cheerleaders, and belong to other such organizations will find their household's normal transportation plans, meal preparation and related chores being adjusted and readjusted to avoid major meltdowns.

Neighbors have been known to save the day with a simple phone call offering a ride to a game with a departure time from the home neighborhood much closer to kick-off time than had been the option if they had to accompany family members whose responsibilities and activity schedules mandated they arrive several hours before even pre-game traditions begin.

Neighbors have been known to save the day with an emergency transport to the stadium of a uniform or performance prop, somehow left in the wrong place and which is now "AWOL" and in need of immediate delivery to a frenzied student or put into the hands of another adult who is to make sure all uniform details get addressed by a certain time on game night.

As impressive-sounding and smartly polished high school marching band units head down a street in traditional block band formation, driven by the solid guidance of the drum corps steady cadence, excited siblings, friends and neighbors point, wave, scream, and aim cameras in the direction of a familiar face as students proudly march into the local stadium. They are our neighbors.

Certainly much of the pageantry of these events is focused on the teenage participants, as it should be, but there are others-adults-whose participation in these events have earned recognition for their supportive efforts as well as those who by tradition are featured at these events.

A band member, band parent, alumni volunteer, section directors, music and band teachers, and the band director-all have individually been seen by neighbors coming and going from camps and practice sessions all summer in preparation for the season opener.

Our neighbors are the people who by choosing to spend football game nights shouldering specific duties meant to make those events unfold seamlessly they enable kids on the playing field, in the band, or in the cheer squad to reach for goals that may profoundly impact the direction their individual future path will head as they find their way to the next phase of their life experience.

Stop to think about the contributions made by game night parking volunteers, football moms, band parents, boosters club members, bus drivers and others who work together to make the experience of football in the Ohio Valley something special.

Hey, that's my neighbor-over there-on the football team! Another neighbor's daughter is a cheerleader.

Hey, it's my neighbors. Their kids are in the band and they help out getting everybody ready and in the right place to start marching to the stadium.

"Hey! That's my neighbor!"



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