By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
WEBB CITY, Mo. —
As Diana Williams, Cardinal Pride director of bands, on Tuesday night introduced a Webb City High School jazz band tongue-in-cheek tradition, a bawdy tune called “The Stripper,” someone put a red boa around her neck.
“I don’t know how this tradition got started,” she said with a laugh. “But what happens here stays here.”
But students, staff members and parents who spoke before the concert about Williams’ impact during her 16-year tenure told a different story: They said her influence has taken the reputation of the Webb City band program far beyond the auditorium walls.
“She’s done a whole lot for the school and for me,” said sophomore Josie Richardson, a clarinetist. “She has a passion for everything she does. She’s gotten the program to where it is today. It wouldn’t be what it is without her.”
Williams is credited with spearheading the success of the Webb City Cardinal Pride Band program, taking the marching band to two Tournament of Roses Parades in Pasadena, Calif. She also created Webb City’s Webbstock Marching Festival, one of the largest such festivals in the state with more than 25 of the region’s top marching bands participating.
Her students frequently score high marks at regional and state festivals and contests.
Williams announced early this spring that she had accepted a position with the Lovejoy Independent School District in Lucas, Texas, and will begin there this fall. Tuesday night’s concert was her final performance as Webb City’s fine arts coordinator and director of bands.
The concert also was the final performance for Michael Oglesby, junior high band director, who is leaving to work in his family business.
Oglesby has been with the school district for 11 years. He has directed the eighth-grade wind ensemble, concert bands, seventh-grade brass group, woodwind classes and junior high jazz bands, and has assisted with the high school band and marching band.
Before the concert, Jacob Pelton, a freshman trombonist, cited Oglesby’s sense of humor, enthusiasm and long hours as marks of a good teacher. “He takes time out of his life to help others,” he said.
The concert, held in Webb City High School’s Barton Theater, featured performances by the Jazz I and Wind Ensemble groups under the direction of Williams, with Oglesby featured as a guest conductor. Also performing were Dance Theatre, under the direction of Liz Arnold and Megan Dotson, and Symphonic Band, under the direction of Jim Devine.
Devine, a music teacher with the district, has been named Williams’ successor. Replacing Oglesby will be Becky Long, the junior high choir director.
Mike Moore, Band Boosters president when the band marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade, said Williams’ knowledge of her profession and experience in her craft were “amazing.”
“Her reputation is well-known in Missouri, the region and nationally,” he said. “I learned a lot during my tenure, and so did many of the students who went through this program. She set a gold standard and expected all students to shoot for it. I admire her for that.”
Brad Baker, Band Boosters president, offered congratulations, recognition and gifts to the outgoing directors.
“It’s been a very special evening,” he said. “You’re seeing not only excellent music but the culmination of almost 30 years of our two directors that will be leaving us at the end of this school year.”
After a standing ovation by students and parents for his efforts, Oglesby said he has appreciated “every single moment” of the Webb City music program.
“I had the opportunity to do more things than I ever dreamed of when I took this job,” he said.
BEFORE THE CONCERT CONCLUDED, band students surprised Diana Williams with a plaque and a necklace with each band member’s initials on the beads, bringing her to tears. To cheers from the audience, she put it on, wiped away the tears and picked up her baton.