By Joe Hadsall
Ali Wilbert, a senior at Joplin High School, tried not to think about it.
On Monday night, she took her place on stage with the Joplin High School orchestra and played violin for director Terry Dolanc’s final concert.
“It’s bittersweet,” Wilbert said. “He has been my teacher for six years now, and he’s not going to be here for me to visit.”
Dolanc is retiring at the end of this school year. The director has taught orchestra for 44 years — 40 of those at Joplin and Parkwood high schools. He also has taught at middle schools in the district.
During Monday night’s performance, which featured senior soloists and the Strolling Strings orchestra, he received the Lois Bellm Friend of Music award. He also thanked Joplin’s administration for supporting an orchestra for so long.
“In this part of the state, only Joplin and Neosho have orchestra programs,” Dolanc said. “I’m proud of how Joplin has been able to maintain an orchestra since 1914. It has always been supported by the community and the administration.”
Dolanc retired from full-time teaching nine years ago but immediately was rehired as a part-time orchestra director.
“Everything is going well,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the orchestra now, and I’d like to retire when everything is on an even keel. It’s time to let someone else take over.”
He leaves a legacy of current and former students who say they were inspired by his dry wit and pursuit of excellence.
“He expects high standards and for students to play to their full potential,” said John Atteberry, a former student. “He is diligent with all of his performances and does it all with a sense of humor.”
Atteberry, in addition to now being a son-in-law, is also a music teacher at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School. He called Dolanc a prominent teacher who influenced his decision to teach music.
Julia Stone, director of orchestra and chorus at North Middle School, is another former student of Dolanc’s.
“Orchestra was my favorite hour of the day,” she said. “He inspired us to create beautiful music and made it so much fun.”
Current students have similar experiences. Senior Sam Martin called Dolanc a mentor who deserves all the recognition he received Monday night.
“He always lets us know how we are playing, especially when we are playing well,” Martin said. “He really listens. He gets a lot of respect from students.”
Dolanc earned a music degree from Pittsburg (Kan.) State University. Like many of his students, he was inspired to seek a career in music by his band director and a clarinet teacher, he said. His clarinet teacher was a faculty member at Pittsburg State.
Wilbert said she is excited to go to the same university after her graduation.
“I’ll be going to PSU, and I plan on playing in the orchestra,” she said. “It’s nice to be following in his footsteps.”
Throughout his career, Dolanc said, one of the more gratifying things he has experienced has been watching his students have children who then became his students.
“By not moving around, I’ve been able to see children come through, then have children of their own,” he said. “It’s good to hear someone say they played violin or cello and that they are passing their love of the instrument to their children.”
His wife, Karen, will continue to teach music lessons. He has three children, all of whom play instruments.
Dolanc said he plans on performing more and working in his garden, for now. He said the impact of conducting his final concert hasn’t yet set in.
“I tried not to think about it at the time,” he said. “I think the major impact will come in the fall, when school starts and I don’t. But right now, I feel good about everything. It was a great concert and a great year, and I’m grateful for that.”
Terry Dolanc’s last concert included Bach’s “Brandenburg Sinfonia,” Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Romany Dances” by Elliot Del Borgo.