A musical ending

After two decades of teaching music at Lakeshore Public Schools, Phil and Cindy Huff are retiring at the end of the school year. The Lakeshore Band Parents commissioned composer Sean O’Loughlin to write a piece of music in honor of the Huffs, which will performed during the Spring Concerts at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the Lakeshore High School auditorium.

STEVENSVILLE — One adventure must end so another can begin.

Phil and Cindy Huff said that has been their motto as they complete their last school year as band directors for Lakeshore Middle School. They retire on June 13 – the last day of school.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” said Phil, a 1974 Dowagiac Union High School graduate.

Cindy, a 1974 graduate of Lakeshore High School, added: “I never wanted it to end anywhere but here.”

The Huffs both worked at New Buffalo Area Schools before Phil started working at Lakeshore Middle School in the fall of 1997. Cindy said she followed him to Lakeshore in the fall of 1998 to teach music in the elementary schools. She eventually was moved to teach one class at the high school and also team taught several classes at the middle school with her husband.

The Huffs said retiring probably won’t hit them until mid-July, when they usually start working 70 to 80 hour weeks with band Director Lori Von Koenig to get the high school marching band prepared for state competition the first weekend in November.

“We’ve won the state championship six times, the last three years in a row,” Phil said. “It’s really fun. To build a show is an experience. Every show is a journey.”

Although Cindy said that with their third grandchild due mid-July, they will be a little distracted.

In honor of the Huffs, the Lakeshore Band Parents commissioned one of their favorite composers, Sean O’Loughlin, to write an orchestra piece, “Beyond the Crest.” It will be performed Wednesday during the Middle School Spring Concert and Thursday during the High School Spring Concert. Both concerts start at 7 p.m. and will be at the Lakeshore High School auditorium.

Phil will conduct Wednesday, with Cindy leading the orchestra Thursday.

They said they feel humbled and honored that the band parents had an orchestra piece written in their name.

“Usually, commissioned pieces are in honor of someone who ... has passed away, and you’re honoring their memory,” Phil said. “To be alive and to be able to conduct the piece...”

Cindy added: “That’s so special.”

Phil said the “Beyond the Crest” reflects their careers.

“The piece starts very soft and pretty, like the beginning of our careers,” he said. “The middle part is chaotic and kind of hectic and noisy. And it ends very triumphant. For us, you can see our career in the music. You can hear our career in the music. He did a wonderful job of capturing that.”

The Huffs met while taking classes at Lake Michigan College in Benton Township and earned their music education degrees from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo in 1978. They then traveled to Oregon three summers to get their master’s degrees in music from Southern Oregon University in 2002.

They said teaching together has been made easier since they went through the same training.

“We do things in a very similar way,” Cindy said. “Mostly because of the training we got at Western, we have a very similar concept of sound and what we’re trying to achieve.”

She said it helps that they both approach music the same way.

“We know that we’re saying the same words. We’re teaching the same concepts in the same way,” she said. “We know how the other one thinks after all these years.”

Cindy said she felt honored that school administration allowed them to help choose the band directors to take their places.

“Lori wanted us to be in on the interviews because we still have a vested interest in this program,” she said. “I grew up in this program. We put our blood, sweat and tears into it for over 20 years. That was really great.”

One of the new directors, Matt Pagel, is a former Lakeshore student. He is currently the band director in the Brandon School District in Brandon.

The other new director, Joel Hosey, works with Marshall Music in Portage.

“We feel like we’re leaving (the band) in the very best of hands,” Cindy said.

She said the hardest part of retiring will be leaving Von Koenig.

“Phil and Lori and I have been like the three amigos,” Cindy said. “That part of it is going to be really hard to leave. It’s hard to leave the kids, but we know they’re being left in good hands. But, it will be hard not to see her every day.”

Cindy said she plans to teach private music lessons in retirement.

Phil said he may teach some private lessons, or he may work at his other passion, helping to remodel houses.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege

Lakeshore Spring Concerts

All concerts begin at 7 p.m. and are at the Lakeshore Community Auditorium at Lakeshore High School.

• Tuesday, fifth and sixth grade band

• Wednesday, seventh and eighth grade band

• Thursday, high school band