Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A career teaching music well worth noting

HUDSON — It's that time of year. The kids are getting antsy and counting down for winter break. Hudson Middle School band director John Keon is doing the usual prodding of young musicians to muster for a piece called Sleigh Ride for the holiday concert, all while dealing with the emotions of knowing that this will be his last.

After 41 years of teaching, Keon is retiring. His last day is Dec. 20 and he's hoping to go out on a high note — or at least the right ones.

"I'm hearing a lot of wrong notes," Keon said after finishing a taxing run-through with the symphonic band. "Do you really want to sound like that for the concert? No? I didn't think so."

Then he sent them off with the direction to practice some more, leaving a few moments for reflection.

"I was walking the halls the other morning wondering whether I really want to do this," he said. "I've got mixed feelings big time. You spend your whole life doing something."

Keon's career took him from upstate New York to Pasco, where he taught music at Anclote Elementary and Pasco Middle before finding a home for 23 years at Hudson Middle. Each year brought a new crop of students, many of whom had never picked up an instrument. He taught them how to play half notes and quarter notes while building rapport with the community through an elite jazz band.

"He's a kind, kind man," said Rebecca Musselman, program coordinator of Fine Arts programs for Pasco County schools. "One of the things I admire about him is his willingness to help other band directors and his gentle approach. He's encouraged so many people to go into music as a profession. It's a testament to his influence and his ability to nurture students."

As an accomplished percussionist, Keon once made extra cash playing weddings. But between private lessons after school and the school's traveling jazz band, there was no time. Nights and weekends were spent shuttling kids dressed zoot suit style to 60 or so performances to play In the Mood, Woodchoppers Ball, Stand By Me and Keon's favorite, Wipe Out, in community centers and club houses. Folks got to gushing about the remarkable young talent and tossed money into a hat to help fund band travel expenses.

"I am so impressed," said Connie Townsend, 70, a flute player, church pianist and resident of the Cross Creek at Summertree community in Hudson, where the band performed last week. "I don't know of any junior high band from our era that could play like this."

Keon took his kids to competitions, broadening their horizons in places like New Orleans, Atlanta and New York City. Twice, the jazz band played for students at an elementary school just blocks from where the World Trade Center fell.

"I wanted them to experience the world," Keon said, recalling the wonder in the eyes of kids seeing Times Square for the first time. "But I also wanted them to experience the act of doing for others with their music."

Twenty-five of Keon's former students are now teaching music in Florida schools, including percussionist Joel Quina, recently named Teacher of the Year at J.W. Mitchell High in Trinity. Former private student Mark Trojanowski plays drums for the rock band Sister Hazel. There's also a slew of Hudson Middle School band alumni out there — some who dusted off their old instruments to play homage to Keon at a surprise send-off in June.

"That was awesome," Keon said. "Something like that makes you realize you've gotten some things done in your life."

Then there's the future — students like trumpeter Shane Falco, the lone middle school student in District V (Pasco, Hernando and Citrus) selected to perform with the Florida Music Educators Association's All State Band in January. Shane is just one of about 30 of Keon's private or public school students to make that prestigious trek.

"He's really a great band director," Shane said. "We're all going to miss him."

Last week, principal Terry Holback was still interviewing potential candidates with plans to have a new director in place by the start of winter break.

Between now and then, Keon is booked solid with the school's holiday concert, a handful of community gigs and the annual Disney World performance. A final appearance will be at Tampa International Airport on Dec. 19. There, Keon will lead his jazz band as they follow the tradition of greeting and sending off for one last time.

>>fast facts

Performance dates

• The community is welcome to attend the Hudson Middle School holiday band concert led by outgoing band director John Keon at 7 p.m. Monday at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Free.

• You can also catch the Hudson Middle Jazz band at band at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at Disney World and at 4 p.m. Dec. 19 at Tampa International Airport.

A career teaching music well worth noting 12/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 6, 2013 6:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Paul Rodgers replacing ZZ Top on Ribfest 2017 lineup


    In looking to replace the ailing ZZ Top, Ribfest found some good company in Bad Company.

    Paul Rodgers
  2. Some teachers allege 'hostile and racially charged' workplace at Pinellas Park Middle


    PINELLAS PARK — Two black teachers at Pinellas Park Middle have requested transfers out of the school, alleging the work environment there has become "hostile and racially charged."

    Pinellas Park Middle School at 6940 70th Ave N, where some black teachers have alleged they were treated with hostility by colleagues after starting a tutoring program for black students. Just 22 percent of black students were proficient in English language arts in last spring's state tests. Two black teachers have asked to be transfered, according to a letter from two local chapters of the NAACP. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race


    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  4. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  5. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity


    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.