A good friend passed away last Saturday, 22 February. Truth be told, I think anyone who came in contact with him would consider him to be a “good friend.” He had that admirable quality of making everyone who he interacted with feel completely at ease. He was kind, generous of spirit, and a fine musician.
Ron Evans was the founder and conductor of the Northwinds Symphonic Band, which has existed in Gainesville, Georgia since 1984. He also was band director at several high schools in the Gainesville area before retiring in 1997 and served as a board member for music organizations in the north Georgia area.
I met Ron in 2005 after graduating from Indiana University and moving back to the north Georgia area. I was encouraged to join the Northwinds Symphonic Band, which primarily included band directors, music teachers, college music students, and professional musicians. My participation in this group was one of the best ensemble experiences I’ve ever had. He and the other directors were professional, detail-oriented, and insisted on quality performances. However, rehearsals and performances were fun, and I was always aware of how much the community appreciated our concerts.
The annual Memorial Day concert was always the highlight for me. Veterans were invited, of course, and would march around the venue during one particular piece on the program. All branches of the military were acknowledged, and it was quite moving to see service members of all ages making their way around the room. What a privilege to be able to honor them!
Another highlight during my time with Northwinds was when we toured south Georgia in 2011. We played a program that included marches and patriotic pieces. Ron dressed up as John Philip Sousa, and the crowds loved it. It was an experience like no other.
I moved to South Carolina for a short time before taking my current position in South Dakota. I continued to make the drive from South Carolina to north Georgia for Northwinds rehearsals because the experience was just that important and rewarding to me.
I have been reflecting over the past couple of days on the extent of Ron’s legacy. During his career, he must have taught thousands of students. I’m sure he taught the children (maybe grandchildren?) of his first batch of students. He established an organization where professional musicians could come together and have a fun, fulfilling experience. He was well-respected by others in his field but also by those in the greater community. How many lives did he impact? How many high school students’ souls did he shelter by providing a demanding yet supportive experience? How many adult lives (like mine) did he enrich through his hard work with Northwinds?
What a legacy! What will mine be?
Time to get back to work.