Behind the Music

Hahnville High School’s legendary band director retires

Heather R. Breaux
July 08, 2009 at 10:43 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Behind the Music
Courtesy Photo
Thirty-one years ago, David Rosenthal first waved his director’s baton at Hahnville High School. Last month the band director retired, saying that his “time” had finally come.

“Being a high school band director is very demanding, both in terms of time and energy,” said Rosenthal. “I certainly have no problem with the time the job demands, but I felt like my energy level wasn’t what it needed to be to continue and be as effective as I would demand of myself.”

Rosenthal first began his career as a high school band director in 1976 at Franklin High School in St. Mary Parish where he remained for two years before joining the HHS staff in 1978.

“My motivation to continue as band director for so many years came from my love of kids and music,” he said. “So I had the best of both worlds. I looked forward to going to work every day. It wasn’t just a job.”

Known for his musical enthusiasm and knowledge, Rosenthal was also famous for his intense, summer band camps which set the stage for the entire marching band season.

“The marching band at any high school is one of the most visible groups in the entire school, if not the most visible,” Rosenthal said. “More people will see that group than practically any other group, between football games and parades, so it’s important that that group be good.

“Most of what we did in the marching band was actually set in stone during band camp. That’s where we taught all of our marching fundamentals as well as the show’s drill and learned most of the music that would be played during the season.

“Band camp, for the marching band, was the most important two weeks of the season.”

After making the transition to HHS in the late 1970s, Rosenthal experienced the first highlight of his career - watching both his marching and concert bands achieve superior ratings in competition.

Other high points in Rosenthal’s profession included leading his students to represent Louisiana at the Ark-La-Tex Band Conference in 1987, performing at the 2006 National Independence Day parade in Washington D.C. and witnessing his students place third in the La. Showcase of Marching Bands last fall - the highest rank in the school’s history at the competition.

“The most rewarding part of the job is the combination of the music these students made and the satisfaction I got seeing them reach their goals, and the pride they exhibited in themselves and their band performance,” said Rosenthal.

“And the support the band has received throughout the years from the community, parents and the school system has been incredible.”

While experiencing the talented music his students have made over the years remains close to Rosenthal’s heart, he does admit that there were challenges along the way.

“The most difficult part of my job as band director was taking such large numbers of students, each with their own wants and needs, and getting them to strive for the same goals and standards as a group,” he said. “However the most manageable part was also the students.

“I was blessed for all these years to have the most wonderful young people to teach and work with. They made my job a bit easier and they definitely made me look better than I think I really am.”

Rosenthal says that his last-day emotions really weren’t much different than any other school year, but mentions that this year’s last concert was somewhat overwhelming.

“The emotional part came at the spring concert, knowing that it was my last major performance as director of the Hahnville band,” he said. “It was a very emotional time for me, considering the tasteful send off the students and parents gave me. I’m not normally a crier, but I did shed a few tears.

“This year was easier, for the most part, due to the students. We had a great senior class, one of the best ever. They were great musicians, great leaders and wonderful, caring people. They just simply made things happen in ways very few ‘outsiders’ could possibly imagine.”

Rosenthal says that he’s had many memorable students over the years, but felt fortunate to have taught three step-daughters and two sons-in-law.

“I taught my step-daughters Lori, Heidi and Kristi, and Brian Petit and Greg Matherne, my sons-in-law, during my first 10 years at Hahnville,” said Rosenthal. “At that time, none of us knew that relationship was in the cards.”

Rosenthal plans to take some time off for the next year or so, but may not be “off” of the director’s podium for long.

“Eventually, I will probably look to do something,” he said. “Who knows, I may even get back into teaching at the elementary or middle school level.”

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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