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OPINION: The class that changed my life

by By Doug Chastain Random Recollections | May 4, 2022 at 5:25 a.m.

The summer before my senior year in high school, my family moved from De Queen, Arkansas, to Greenwood, Mississippi. I thought it was the end of the world. But I was about to discover that what I thought was the end of the world would actually turn my world around.

I attended Greenwood High School. I was the senior that no one knew. The senior who didn't want to be there. But every day after lunch I attended a class that turned out to be the favorite of my entire high school career.

I'm not sure what the official name of the class was, but it was what could be called an AP music class. Its components included music theory, music history, composition, orchestration and conducting. The handful of other students and I were immersed in music and it was, to me, an extraordinarily enjoyable experience.

The instructor was Greenwood High's band director, Donald Anthony. He ran what was arguably the best band program in the region, if not the state. He was a no nonsense educator, who held the students under his supervision to exceptionally high standards, and at the same time was good-natured and amiable. It was not surprising then that his students were motivated to give him their best efforts. And those efforts paid off in many ways.

I made that discovery in 1974. The final for our music class, due in May, was the most complex I would ever encounter, even in college. We were to compose a three-section piece of music, score it for Anthony's 120 piece band, and then conduct it as the band sight read it. Needless to say, the effort was difficult and time-intensive. And I loved every minute of it.

And so I stepped on the podium on that day in May, raised my baton and felt an adrenaline rush as 120 of my classmates raised their instruments. And I was hooked. I had always enjoyed music, but it was not until that moment I had ever really considered making it my life's work.

That fall I entered Henderson State University as a vocal music major. And because of the instruction of Donald Anthony, my first year in a college music department was a veritable breeze. I could have done it with my eyes closed.

I thought my world had ended. I was in a place I didn't want to be. But the providence of God, through a sincere and determined band director, changed the course of my life. For that I will ever be grateful.

"And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans." – Romans 8:28 (TLB)

-- Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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