A Band Member’s Second Thoughts on Homecomings


You’ll forgive me, I hope, if this column isn’t funny. After last week’s serious essay, I wanted to write something lighthearted and entertaining this week—and I did, I think. But as the preacher of Ecclesiastes says, “There’s a time and place for everything, and then there’s not,” or something to that effect. Or maybe that was my old senior English teacher.

Official HHS seal

I originally wrote a long, waggish column about that—not about old English teachers like me, but about my old days at Hibriten High School in Lenoir. After all, it’s homecoming there this Friday night—Hibriten’s 50th homecoming, in fact—and I thought it would be fun to write about what defined me as a high school student in the mid-1970s—you know, the noun that filled in the blank in the old Q-and-A, “Oh, him? He’s a(n) _____.”

Me? I was a band member.

Scrapbook mementos

The column that you aren’t reading now was specifically about that—being a band member at a school where one could be proud of that distinction, not embarrassed by it. I mainly wrote about our outstanding band director, George W. Kirsten, the most influential public school teacher I had in my 13 years of schooling. He was my band director for seven of those years, starting when I was in the sixth grade at Happy Valley Elementary School. I’m glad I took the time to thank him.

Homecoming 2011
Homecoming 2011

And, yes, he was a real-life Mr. Holland for all of us, not just for me. If you’re at Jeff Storie Memorial Stadium on Friday evening (Sept. 30), I’m sure you’ll hear the band alumni my age sharing “Mr. K stories” as they sit with the marching band to play the Alma Mater once and the fight song every time the Panthers score. I have a feeling they’ll be playing the fight song often and with pride throughout the game.

Of course, band alumni from other eras will be sharing stories about their own Mr. or Ms. Holland, but about one in particular—Dennis Carswell, who was Hibriten’s band director in the 1990s. According to what I read today on Facebook, Mr. Carswell died yesterday morning in Florida after a period of declining health. I also learned that he’d had a heart transplant in 2001.

I never met Mr. Carswell and knew very little about him before today, only good things I’d heard about his dedication to musical excellence at Hibriten. I remember seeing one particular photo of him with Mr. Kirsten and thinking that the two men looked like kindred spirits, partly because Mr. Carswell sported a black bandmaster’s uniform like the one Mr. K had worn with us.

I’m sure more will be said about Mr. Carswell at the Loving Lenoir 2016 Concert this Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2:30 p.m., at College Avenue Baptist Church in Lenoir.

1977 Commencement Program

But that’s why I decided against running my original homecoming column—because, as the preacher says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” There’s a time to make jokes. And there’s a time to just be quiet and be thankful.

4 thoughts on “A Band Member’s Second Thoughts on Homecomings”

    1. Thanks, Neal. Sorry I wasn’t able to attend again this year due to family obligations. In addition to the usual situation, we also had a different elderly parent admitted to the hospital late Friday night. But congratulations on the successful event.

  1. Rahn,
    You went through the band program with my brother Chris, and I agree with everything you wrote. Mr. Kirsten was gone by the time I got to Hibriten but his legacy is assured. Thanks for reminding “band guys and girls” how much it mattered that we played beautifully difficult music together.
    John Doll
    HHS ’82

    1. Hi, John. I remember you from back then. Chris was a good friend. We had many classes together at HHS and played basketball together at Happy Valley. But I don’t think I’ve seen him since high school. By the way, I just retired as an English teacher at Watauga High. How long before you can do likewise?

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