When we moved into our house near Lee High School in 1993, we used to tell everyone we saved a lot of money on video rentals every August, because for entertainment all we had to do was set up our lawn chairs in the back alley and listen to Mr. Storie whip his Rebel band into shape every day. He was legendary throughout the neighborhood (and beyond) when his voice would boom from behind that megaphone.
That was well over a decade ago. Mr. Storie's voice is somewhat quieted these days as he continues his forced sabbatical in a Midland hospital room while dealing with complications from diabetes and recovering from a surgery that is setting him back way longer than he would ever want to be set back.
We've had one child go through the Rebel Band with another one on the way, and although our daughter stepped out of music and into another field in her senior year, she is the one who first alerted me to his recent illness. The news had made the rounds on MySpace and our daughter was expressing a genuine concern to me even though it has been four years since her graduation.
Mr. Storie is an enigmatic soul. I don't think there's much question about that. He drives his student musicians as hard as any football coach drives his athletes. Some would argue harder. But he loves them and he tells them frequently. On one hand he can be somewhat controversial, but on the other he has an uncanny ability to turn novice band students -- children -- into young adults who are gifted with a passion for music.
His track record for success at University Interscholastic League contests may be approaching the unprecedented level; his bands have won something like 35 or 36 sweepstakes in a row, probably more by now. He is an honored and admired educator and someone who is truly and genuinely moved in his heart by the sound of music, a quality he hands down to students willing to learn and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to live up to the potential he sees in them. Ask anyone who's been through that program: it's not always easy. But the fruits are substantial. If you make it through his program, not only do you get a man who will champion you for years after you graduate, you get someone who passes along to you a deep passion for music. Both are gifts to be cherished for a lifetime. As I tell my own kids, anything worth having must be earned.
I served as a band volunteer several years ago and didn't do nearly the job that needed to be done. No excuses, only regrets that I was unable to devote the time he needed and the kids deserved.
Mr. Storie reminds me a lot of my own high school band director, a man who drove me and others hard every single school day. He instilled in me a lifelong love of music (not to mention my lifelong habit of a nearly endless tapping of my fingers to the beat of whatever is looping through my head at a particular moment). I will never forget my band director, who still remembered even me a couple of years ago. The best band directors never forget their students. Mr. Storie is that way. He is hard and he is demanding, yes; but what student musicians get in return is irreplaceable: the love of a teacher and the love of music.
The news out of Midland Memorial Hospital today is good: Mr. Storie continues on the road to recovery and doctors are encouraged at his progress.
Hundreds of people who have crossed paths with Randy Storie wish him only the best during this difficult time. He will remain in their prayers as well.