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Joseph Eugene “Gene” Hoggard, who many consider to be the father of the LaRue County High School Band of Hawks, passed away Monday, Nov. 19.
One of his former students recalled a column about him, published March 27, 1991, and asked for a reprint.
Columnist Sarah Bennett-Booker described the impact Hoggard had on her life in “The look was band teacher’s powerful disciplinary tool.”
I learned more about managing people and how to handle discipline from Mr. Hoggard than I learned from my 10 years of college. If when I faced my first class of students (ages 7 to 22, I.Q. 70 to 170, 24 boys and one girl, average reading level 2.4 years) all I had to go on was what I learned in college, I would have jumped off the nearest bridge. Instead, I did what I had seen Mr. Hoggard do and everything went fine.
Mr. Hoggard came to Hodgenville when I was in the eighth grade. He had more energy than three men, walked faster than anyone I had ever seen and could play every musical instrument created by man.
He took 85 to 100 energetic, creative, mischievous kids from sixth to 12th grade û some talented and some with less than no talent, many of us with special problems, all of us with individual needs û and taught us to read music, play instruments, believe in ourselves and work as a team. He taught us to win with grace, compete with confidence and lose without losing our self-respect.
If he had favorites, we never knew it. 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 it, 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 look” involved his putting his hands on his hips and looking straight at you with a bemused, slightly pained expression which said, “How can someone as smart as you are have done that? How could someone I care for so deeply disappoint me in this way?”
It made you want to hide under your music stand for life.
As soon as it came, it was over. He never held grudges, nagged or quit trusting us. He handled all problems “in-house.” Correction was private. Praise was lavish and public.
What made “the look” so powerful were his other looks.
After a concert or competition, he could look at us with such pride it would make tears come to our eyes. There are not enough words in the English language to tell you what all of his looks meant, but they were part and parcel of helping a lot of students grown into healthy, productive adults.
Mr. Hoggard made us feel liked, accepted, special, worthwhile and that nothing was too hard for us to tackle. We trusted him, respected him and adored him. He returned the feelings in kind.
At the time, we were too young to know the immense responsibility he assumed without question. He worked with us all summer, after school and on weekends. He loaded us in buses and took us all over the country. He allowed us to explore new places, see new things and let us enjoy every place we went without losing any of us.
Sometimes a parent or two went along to help but often he took care of us alone. He would pack the buses with our instruments and suitcases, make sure we were all on the bus, drive the bus himself, handle the discipline, nurse the sick and frightened and more than a few times, fixed a broken down bus in the hot sun before we reached our destination.
With all that he did, he made us feel as if he loved every minute he was with us.
It is said, “the best teacher is a good example.” In my lifetime I have gotten through many difficult and even frightening situations by asking myself, “What would Mr. Hoggard do in this situation?”
Thank you, Mr. Hoggard, for being my good example.