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Friendship's Mike Sanders Hanging Up Baton For Volunteer Work
June 1, 2005, 10:58 am

Friendship's Mike Sanders Hanging Up Baton For Volunteer Work
Michelle Orris (Journal Reporter). The Journal and Topics Newspapers: Local News. Wednesday, May 25, 2005.

Friendship Junior High School Band Director Mike Sanders has conducted band concerts in Community Consolidated School Dist. 59 for the past 33 years, and his final concert will take place on Thursday, May 26.

Throughout his career, Sanders has taught students that went on to perform in professional symphonies, a quiet saxophone player named James Iha who went on to become famous as the Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, and a student saxophone player who went on to become Friendship's Orchestra Director and teach music with Sanders for nine years.

"I will miss him so much," said Orchestra Director Corine Kees, choking up as she said the words. "As a kid, I remember him always being glad to be at work. That left an impression on me, and that's why I became a music teacher."

Throughout the span of his career, Sanders said he has been pleased to find a much wider variety of excellent music written and arranged for junior high bands.

However, the task of drawing students into band has become more difficult, he said.

"Now there are so many sports and there's so much to get involved in," Sanders said. "You have to work a little harder to make it desirable."

Despite the challenge, Sanders' students appear to be a dedicated group. A popular extra-curricular jazz band class boasts consistently perfect attendance, and jazz band students come early to school to meet twice weekly at 7:40 a.m. In order to participate, many of those students learn to play instruments other than their primary instrument.

"I'm always amazed at how the band sounds so good, and kids are not even playing their normal instruments," Kees said. "He really has a way of bringing out the best in his students."

Some of Sanders' favorite band memories are trips to State Fairs, Canada, St. Louis, and even Disney World. When a hurricane hit Disney World, the band arrived the next day to find bright and sunny weather.

"That was the first time they ever closed Disney World," Sanders said.

The band performed the Aladdin soundtrack to coincide with animation, and they performed at the Epcot Center.

On one trip, Sanders' band won the Governor's Award as the best band at the Illinois State Fair.

Sanders said the trips are a good way to reward students who make a "little more of a sacrifice to be in band."

"The fun part is just the kids, to watch them grow," Sanders said. "Junior High is such a challenging age."

Sanders has also watched the growth of Dist. 59, where he started his teaching career. He started teaching general music at Salt Creek School in 1972, after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Northeastern Illinois University. He later earned a masters degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Roosevelt University in 1991.

Prior to his start in Dist. 59, Sanders served as an Army reservist until 1971. He taught at Lively, Holmes and Friendship Junior High Schools. He has also played music professionally throughout the Chicago area, and directed his church choir. Sanders is proficient on the keyboard, organ, accordion, and trumpet. Sanders helped organize the first district honors band and chorus.

Now age 56, Sanders plans to devote the next chapter of his life to golf and volunteer work. He is considering work as a hospital volunteer, he is thinking about playing in a community band, and he is planning to become more involved with his church.

"The passion in my life is golf now," he said.

On Monday morning, Sanders' band class rehearsed for Thursday's final concert of the year, which promises to be an impressive performance. Sanders' Jazz Band will perform tonight (Wednesday) at Hackney's, located at 12300 S. LaGrange Rd. in Palos Park.

The final band concert will take place on Thursday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the junior high auditorium.

Credit: Michelle Orris

Source: The Journal and Topics Newspapers