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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, April 22, 2013


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


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The Turtle and the Fence Post - A Tribute to Mentors
by Bob Hopkins

I trust that you will forgive me for using the first person. But, these are personal thoughts. Time on the road between schools allows plenty of time for reflection. This seems to be an appropriate time for me to share some of mine.

Over the years, Iíve had the honor of talking with and getting to know a number of men and women who have shaped our band world. After each visit, I find myself wondering if people like Prissy Buchanan, Bill Mack and Bob Scott can even count the number of people they have helped with their kind words of encouragement, teaching suggestions or just by sharing their outlooks on life. It occurred to me that I should call my own Mentor/Advisor/Boss/Friend, Dan Palen. I made a mental note to do that but didnít get around to it before Dan passed away March 30th.

I first met Mr. Palen (I was almost 40 years old before I could comfortably call him Dan) as a 6th grade band student. Each time I moved up a grade level through the Springfield Public Schools, so did his career. From Sunshine Elementary to Jarrett Jr. High to Parkview High School, and finally to Southwest Missouri State, I was under his baton and influence. Our relationship continued during my eight-year teaching career. Recognizing my burn-out with teaching, he offered me a position with Palen Music Center 34 years ago and I have been a part of the PMC team ever since.

Many knew Dan to be a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails businessman but there was definitely another side to him. What did he see in this tall, skinny clarinet player? For whatever reason, he always seemed to believe in me. As a student, I learned how to set goals, how to prepare, and how to work in a smart way to achieve them. When I began my own teaching career, I can still remember how he always had time to visit on Saturday mornings when Iíd drop by the store. There were always words of advice, encouragement, and a pat on the back or a kick in the pants.

It would be impossible to list the number of people that he influenced. Not all are in the field of music education. I could name people in many professions and vocations.

Dan was devoted to his family and they loved him. So did I.

That brings me back to my road reflections. I keep seeing the image of the turtle on the fence post. The turtle is in a higher place but didnít get there by himself. He had to have help.

First of all, it is my hope that, as you are reading, you are thinking of that person in your life that helped you along the way. When I mentioned a name, I hope your mind recalled the name of that person in your life that saw you as special and took an interest in you and your success. Who helped put your turtle on the fence post? If they have passed, keep them in your memory. If they are living, call them and let them know that you appreciate them. Stay in contact because they still care about you.

Secondly, are we worthy of what theyíve done for us? Do we continue to try to do our best? Do we live up to the belief they showed in us? Are we taking advantage of the opportunities they offered us?

Lastly, what are we doing to pass it on? Somewhere out there is a younger person who would benefit from our experiences, who needs help feeling special, who needs to be offered the tools and the opportunity to succeed and who needs encouragement. Maybe they are a band kid. Maybe they are in home room or the lunch line. Maybe they are someone we know from church or in the neighborhood. Maybe they are a son or daughter or other family member.

The only way we can pay back our debt to those who have helped us is to help someone else. That is the only way to truly honor and pay tribute to our special mentors. Is there a turtle needing your help to get up on the fence post?

Bob Hopkins, PMC Road Rep
Palen Music Center, Inc.
[email protected]

Bob Hopkins has a Master of Music in Clarinet Performance from Pittsburg State University and a Bachelor of Science in Education (Music) from Missouri State University. He has more than two decades of service as a road representative for Palen Music Center. Prior to his employment with PMC, he served four years as Director of Bands and Choirs at Stockton High School and four years as Director of Bands at Carl Junction High School.

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