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0708 PD: Just dropping by ... Inch by inch!

Yevet Tenney Published on 25 April 2008

“Inch by inch it’s a cinch; yard by yard it’s hard.”

I grew up with that maxim, and was always impressed with the truth of the old saying, but the other day I was tripped and sent sprawling with the same old adage.

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Four years ago, our school district hired a new band director, Tim Vogl, who is literally the best music/drama teacher that Snowflake School District has ever hired! My family has had a tradition of band participation. We have seen the Snowflake High School Band flourish and decline in the hands of different band directors, but I have never met a man who is so committed to the student’s success in the Arts. Mr. Vogl has taken students who have very little experience and talent and made them shine as professionals!

When my husband, Reg, was in the Snowflake High School Band, many years ago, it was a thriving entity and an important part of the school. The halftime shows were magnificent and inspiring to prospective band members. Years went by and my daughter, Marsha was in band. Her time in band was great. She even became the drum major and we proudly supported the band.

The next year Toni, my daughter was in band, and a new person had taken over. She hated the band and finally replaced her music with a choir class. The band steadily dwindled down to twelve members when my son, Chad, became part of the band. He liked the band director, but there was no spark or fire, and the band steadily diminished and the band became an embarrassment.

In Chad’s sophomore year, Mr. Vogl took over as band director. He was like a forest fire of passion rolling through the community. Heads turned as the band began to grow from twelve embarrassed members to about thirty proud young people marching on the field. Chad flourished under Mr. Vogl. He became an accomplished tuba player, and was proud to march with the band.

When Paul and Ashley, my twins, (they are adopted from different mothers, but are the same age) came into the program, the band had grown to eighty members and this year the band went to state, something that had not happened in fifteen years. I watched them perform and was impressed by the teamwork and professionalism of each of the students. It has been years since the school has had a marching band worthy of the talent of the community! The professionalism of the band ranked among the best! That is something to be proud of! Mr. Vogl was the catalyst to that success!

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When the season started, Ashley had never played in a band, and Paul had a reputation for being a troublemaker! Oh not the kind of troublemaker that gets into fights, but the kind that likes attention and will do anything to get it. Taking sheet music from other students, asking endless questions about irrelevant subjects and otherwise pulling students off task were only a few of Paul’s tricks. When I asked if Paul and Ashley could join the band, and told Mr. Vogl the situation, Mr. Vogl said, “Sure, I think we can make it work! I need someone to play the cymbals.” It would have been easy for Mr. Vogl to say, “We want a professional band, and Paul and Ashley just won’t fit into my program” – but he didn’t. He welcomed them with a smile and commitment to make them the band members he wanted.

Ashley started playing the cymbals and Paul continued to play the trumpet. What a transformation! Ashley and Paul began to feel the energy and the fire of success, and their attention turned to the band’s excellent performance. Paul is not perfect, yet, but Mr. Vogl has made him feel a part of something bigger than himself. That has meant so much to a mother who has struggled with behavior problems from a child who didn’t get the same nurturing and training as other children because he was raised in a Bulgarian orphanage.

Mr. Vogl has taken other students with disabilities and made them feel important and successful. He has given special attention to troublemakers and helped them fit into his program.

If Mr. Vogl had stopped at the band, I would have still been impressed, but he didn’t stop there. He moved into the theatre department to put on musicals.

Most schools do a musical every other year or so, because it is so difficult and expensive; Mr. Vogl has put on three wonderful musicals in the last two years. The first one, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” was done as a fund-raiser to take the students to Disney Land. When I heard that high schools students were putting on the production, I went to support the kids, but I expected to be distracted by self-conscious high school performers, but to my utter amazement, I was enthralled with the actors. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! They were not shoddy or amateur in any way. They were of professional quality. His next production, “Fiddler on the Roof”, was equally impressive. He brought out the best in those singers, dancers and actors. Mr. Vogl has vision and the students grow in proportion to his expectations.

The next production was “Guys and Dolls”, a 1950s production. I was again taken off-guard at the professionalism of each performer. Usually there are one or two actors who lose character and draw attention to themselves, but the actors, singers, and dancers were all magnificently focused. The dancers smiled and exuded confidence even in the most difficult dance moves, and there were a lot of difficult moves. What a production! The local paper should have raved about the play and the performance.

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To my dismay, Ashley and Paul came home from school and said, “We have to write a letter and go to the school board tonight. They wrote some bad things in the paper about Mr. Vogl.” Paul tends to tell whoppers for attention, but he was insistent and Ashley backed up the story, so I decided to do some research. Sure enough, right on the front page of the Silver Creek Herald, the headlines glared at me: “SHS Teacher Is Held Accountable For Using Inappropriate Language”

“A Snowflake High School teacher has been held accountable for using inappropriate language in a public setting as a school employee.

“The action came after the Silver Creek Herald provided Superintendent Monte Silk with a copy of video shot by Mike James during the February 23 rehearsal of “Guys and Dolls.” On that clip, Director Tim Vogl can be heard noting that one of the dancers was wearing black tights, then referring to her as “our little pick-a-ninny.”

A letter of reprimand was placed in Mr. Vogl’s file for the comment. I was appalled at the newspaper article branding Mr. Tim Vogl a racist, for an innocent comment during a rehearsal for a play set back in the 1950s. Back in the 1950’s, freedom of speech meant something! The word pick-a-ninny was an endearing term for a black baby, or a black doll. It was in no way offensive or derogatory – any more than calling a white baby a little cherub!

I was saddened that the perpetrator of the article was not laughed out of the district office! We have people profaning the flag, walking all over our religious rights, stomping our Constitution into the dirt and slicing away our liberty, and we point our fingers at the best music/drama teacher that the Snowflake School District has ever hired because he used a 1950’s term in a rehearsal! Even if he had called the girl a pick-a-ninny, which he did not, it should not have amounted to a reprimand that should be placed in his file to loom over his record as a teacher forever!

Many other people felt the same way. That evening the school board room was filled to capacity! The speakers were given two minutes to speak about their concerns. Every speaker had written a letter of appreciation for Mr. Vogl outlining Mr. Vogl’s success stories. Speakers asked that their letter be placed in the file, beside the reprimand. Tears of appreciation from parents, students and former students flowed freely, but the letter was not taken from the file, and Mr. Vogl still has a racial slur against his name.

“Inch by inch it’s a cinch!” There are people out there who are encroaching on our freedoms. Every teacher who is reprimanded for a slip of the tongue, every radio announcer who is slapped for a comment, brings us closer to an American Gestoppo.

Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” The more we expect government to take care of our offenses, the more power we give them to control our lives. Inch by inch! PD

Ritz Pie

25 Ritz crackers
3 to 4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup nuts
Whipped cream

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add salt and beat. Add vanilla and rest of ingredients except whipped cream. Press into pie pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350ºF. Serve with whipped cream when cool.

By Yevet Tenney

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