Tooting the horn!

Sanders couple enriched leading FHS Band program PR effort

A 2017 Christmas band concert at Farragut High School inspired retired Chicago-metro educators Roger and Mary Ellen Sanders to use their talents and volunteer to help FHS Band program.

“There certainly is a need for volunteers,” Roger said. “And as a [retired] administrator, I have always felt that a comprehensive school program included academics, career and technical education and the arts — and athletics.”

The Sanders are reaching out to Farragut as part of a community engagement effort. Roger said their job is to help the Marching Admirals band and orchestra “get better connected with the community, and the community better connected with the band.”

The job “seemed like a natural connect for us,” he added. Besides their educational background, the Sanders share an interest in the arts.

“We both were in the junior high, high school and college bands,” Roger said. “At one time I thought I was going to be a music performance major, but I figured out that wasn’t going to work for me.”

However, the Sanders shared their love for music with their son, Brady, who now is a professional performing artist.

“He also was in [marching] band,” Mary Ellen added.

Brady also was in theater, show choir and drum corps.

“So, we are very interested in the arts,” Roger said. “We’re very committed to the role of the arts in our young people’s education and lifeexperience.”

The Sanders moved from Oswego, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, to Village Green in Farragut last summer.

Mary Ellen is a retired elementary school teacher and reading specialist of 34 years. After she retired, she worked part time as a teacher for about five years.

Roger, who retired as a school superintendent for Newark High School District in Illinois, spent 45 years in education, moving up the ranks from elementary education and library and information sciences to superintendent.

“We’re from a family of educators,” Mary Ellen said.

After they retired, the Sanders decided to move away from the Illinois winters. Roger said they had four criteria for finding a new home — economy, climate, recreation and even cultural opportunities — but the “walkability” of Farragut neighborhoods was the defining point of their deciding to move to Farragut.

“It felt very comfortable,” Roger said. “It felt very much like home.”

The access to sidewalks made the Town more family friendly, he added.

“It was a big deal to leave Illinois,” Mary Ellen said.

“But we decided we would take a new adventure,” Roger added.

As the holidays approached in Farragut, the Sanders decided to attend some high school Christmas programs and “have some entertainment,” Roger said. “And of course, Farragut High School is right next door, so we went to their program and had just a marvelous experience,” he added.

“The performance level [of the band and orchestra] was exceptional,” he said. “The stage presence of the students and the teachers was exceptional.”

So, at the end of the program, the Sanders approached Keith Clupper, director of bands, along with Clupper’s wife, Michelle Clupper, assistant director of bands, and told him they were looking for ways to get involved.

The next day, Roger received an e-mail from Keith Clupper, asking if they would be interested in helping the school band program with community engagement.

“We said, ‘Sure, we can help,’” Roger said.

He observed the school districts in Illinois are structured differently than those in Tennessee.

“We have no county school districts,” he said. “[In Illinois] there are elementary school districts, which are K-eight; there are high school districts, which are nine-12, and there are unit districts, which are K-12.”

Both are chips off the educational block. ”My mother taught high school business for 39 years, and his dad taught 53 years, most of that in a one-room school in southern Illinois,” Mary Ellen said.

While serving in Illinois, Roger also founded a program, “Living mi Dream,” which he started 20 years ago. Despite his retirement, he continues to oversee the program in Illinois. In fact, he was in the Chicago area this past week, working on the program.

“Living mi Dream has been evolving over the last 20 years,” he said. “I started it when I was at Newark High School to look at a different way of approaching the high school experience for our students … it really places a lot of responsibility on the students.”

While they still are new to volunteering at FHS, Roger said he hopes to incorporate some of the principles of the LMD program as an FHS band volunteer.

After he retired as superintendent, Roger went back to work on a part-time basis with a regional career and technical education service center, where he worked for 10 years before retiring a year ago.

From the Living mi Dream program, he wrote a book, “Living mi Dream,” which Roger sent to the press last week, he said Saturday, Jan. 27.

“Retirement did not take well with me,” he said and laughed. “I don’t know if retirement lasted a month or not.”

After he retired as superintendent, Roger went back to work on a part-time basis with a regional career and technical education service center, where he worked for 10 years before he retired a year ago.