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March 10, 2013

Former Lewis Cass band director receives honor

Family to receive ‘Outstanding Bandmaster’ award today on Clark’s behalf

WALTON — Mike Clark, former Lewis Cass High School band director who passed away last September, has been named the recipient of the 2013 Phi Beta Mu — Gamma chapter “Outstanding Bandmaster Award.”

The award, recognizing an individual who has proven themselves as a leader in the instrumental teaching profession, is given to one recipient each year.

The award will be presented today at Purdue University at the Indiana Bandmasters All State Band Concert.

Marty Becker, chapter president, said a couple of members of the Gamma chapter of Phi Beta Mu, the highest honorary international band director’s fraternity in the world, initiated a movement to nominate Clark for the award in August, something they usually don’t do until January.

The decision was unanimous, according to Keith Rudolph, secretary-treasurer of the Gamma chapter — Clark, the sole nominee, should receive the award.

Members of the chapter were able to present the award to Clark before he passed away Sept. 30, 2012, said Traca Clark, Mike’s wife.

Traca, who will be formally accepting the award today, said she was honored and thrilled Mike received the honor of Outstanding Bandmaster.

“I know he would have been so honored and to be the only nominee for 2013, it speaks volumes about Mike and his career,” Traca said. “He knows what’s going on now and I know he is smiling down.”

Traca will accept the award along with her daughters, Sarah and husband Kitt O’Brien, and Catherin Clark and fiancé Brad McFarland. She said the presentation will be bittersweet since he isn’t here to accept the award and it makes their hearts hurt a little bit.

Rudolph said Clark was chosen as the recipient for many reasons.  

“Anytime you have someone who has five state championships, it’s certainly notable, but it’s not the only reason someone receives the award,” Rudolph said.

“We hear from people and know he has been inspirational to others. The way he handled his life before and during his illness was something that inspired us all.”

Former band student Ashley Ellis (nee Fisher) said Clark was a huge part of her life. Ellis, who first met Clark in 2002, was in the color guard, played the flute for concert band and was a band officer her senior year of high school.

“Mr. Clark cared for all of his students and always pushed them to be the best that they could be,” Ellis said. “He had such a positive impact on the whole community, continuing the legacy of the Lewis Cass Marching Kings. He affected not only his students but everyone he met.”

Becker, who has been a friend and colleague of Clark for more than 25 years, will be present the award. Becker met Clark in the 1980s when Clark was a band director at Whitko High School and then Wawasee High School and the Lake Area Community Band. Becker was Clark’s sponsor in 2007 for membership in the Gamma chapter of Phi Beta Mu.

“He touched everyone with kindness and positive attitude and his impact and legacy lives on in his family, in the community, in the Lewis Cass band program as well as the lives of many former students and friends,” Becker said. “If you know anything about Mike Clark at all, you know he is highly deserving of this award. Around the community and state he is known as a strong leader.”

Traca, who has lived in Walton for 11 years, said even though her husband wasn’t a born and bred Lewis Cass King, he felt as if he were.

Before he worked at Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School he would attend state competitions and watch the Lewis Cass band perform, Traca said.

She added that she’d known this was the last job he would take from the very beginning, referring to his intent to stay until he retired.

“He always said Lewis Cass has something special. When he found out there was a job opening, he said it was his dream job,” Traca said. “He was always a Lewis Cass King.”

 

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