Band Directors Retire After Nearly 30 Years Of Success - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/13/08- Rusk

Band Directors Retire After Nearly 30 Years Of Success

For 30 years, their lives revolved around East Texas students, and now, they are calling it a career. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane met with two East Texas band directors who are leaving behind a lot of success and memories.

"I've cried with kids, I've laughed with kids, I've done everything with kids," said Gary Robbins, who's served as band director at Rusk High School for 20 years and 9 years at Jacksonville. "It's just going to be a big empty place in my heart."

For Gary Robbins and Mike Kellogg, it's been 29 years of making great music and successful students.

"Every time they pick up that horn they're playing or projecting something out of themselves and they gain confidence," said Kellogg.

"We've always been told that the Rusk band has a very unique sound and it's very unique because Mr. Robbins and Mr. Kellogg have worked hard to teach us just great tone," said senior band member Lucas Turner.

Students said faith was integrated with learning under their direction.

"We would pray before we went on the field, we'd pray before we went to contest and all of us were just so united," said senior band member Melissa Blankenship.  

Another difference was learning the story behind the sheet music.

"We played It Is Well With My Soul and he told us this story about it and what this man actually went through in his life to write that and it totally changed our perspective," said Blakenship. 

Robbins said he came to Rusk because he saw how desperately students needed help.

"I honestly felt sorry for them because the first year I was here, for example, the kids asked me 'Are you going to watch us march?' And I just looked at them puzzled and said 'Why wouldn't I watch you march? And they said 'Our director our first year left the stands because he was embarrassed," said Robbins.

That was 20 years ago, and since then the Rusk Eagle Band has won sweepstakes 11 years in a row. They've also placed first division at UIL site reading for 16 years. Both directors, ending their careers on a good note.

"We'll always be remembered as Mr. Robbins and Mr. Kellogg's last band," said Turner.  "It's an honor really."

"He feels perfect about what he did here at Rusk and that he did what he was supposed to do," said Robbins' son, David.

An era may be ending, but their influence will play on.

The Rusk Band Banquet was held Tuesday night with a special performer. A man who plays a turkey baster, who's even been on David Letterman. He said he had heard of Mr. Robbins and wanted to be there to help say goodbye.

Courtney Lane, Reporting  clane@kltv.com

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