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Band of Hawks to honor former director with 'Beyond the Sunset'

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By Rebecca Roscoe

It will soon be what some consider the best season of the year – fall.

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Fall marks not only the long awaited football season but also marching season for numerous school band programs across the U.S.

This year the LaRue County High School Band of Hawks, led by Director Jaime Smith, is excited to move into the competitive season – but on a more sentimental note.

The theme for the show this season is titled “Beyond the Sunset” – a tribute to the man who started the program – Joseph Eugene “Gene” Hoggard.

In 1954, Hoggard founded LaRue County’s first ever band program at Hodgenville High School, one of three schools that combined together to form what is today LaRue County High School.

Hoggard’s program expanded in 1959 with the incorporation of Hodgenville, Buffalo and Magnolia high schools, and contained over 100 students at its beginning.

Taking his passion for music to an entirely new and heightened level of excellence Hoggard always went out of his way to help his students to set and reach higher goals.

He looked at his students as his children and went above and beyond the normal role of a teacher.

Sarah Bennett-Booker, a former student of Hoggard’s and columnist for The LaRue County Herald News, wrote: “(Mr. Hoggard) …  could play every musical instrument created by man… He taught us to win with grace, compete with confidence and lose without losing our self-respect.”

“If he got tired of dragging a hundred kids around after him, he never let us know. If it broke, he fixed it. If you lost it, he found it. If you forgot, he worked it out. If you made a mistake, he made you feel as if you had been wrong in the most uniquely brilliant way. If you misbehaved, he gave you ‘the look’.”

The LaRue County High School Band of Hawks remained under Hoggard’s care and instruction for almost 15 years before he retired as band director in 1975, to become a principal at LaRue County Junior High (today known as LaRue County Middle School).

Alumni Hawks and recent students gathered at Hoggard’s funeral in November 2012 to play a tribute in his honor.

Smith said the marching show will focus on the transition of Hoggard’s life on earth, represented by the sunset, to his journey into Heaven.

“There will be eight props – cubes, used throughout the show that will come together to form an image of a sunset on one side and a phrase stating that the show is in memory of Eugene Hoggard, founder of the Band of Hawks, on the other,” said Smith.

Smith hopes to produce a quality product – and share with multiple competition audiences, his remembrance of Hoggard.

Smith said, “I hope that the show does pay tribute to Hoggard. There are so many people in the community that thought highly of him that they would be pleased that we are honoring the man that did so much for this program.”

“Mr. Hoggard cared more about the band than he cared about himself,” Smith added. “He wanted me to succeed as a director and the band to succeed as a whole… I looked at him as a grandfather more than a director – I hold him close to my heart.”

The band will perform the tribute show dedicated to Hoggard in September.