By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Music has been part of John Davis’ life for about as long as he can remember.
For nearly the past four decades, he has helped foster that love of music with students at Midwest City High School.
But this class of band students will be his last as he plans to retire at the end of the school year.
“The students here are easy to work with, they take instruction well and we have a really good parent group,” said the 66-year-old Davis. “I’ve tried to make band enjoyable and teach students that music is something they can do their whole life.”
He started his career at the former Monroney Junior High School in 1979. Aside from a two-year hiatus to Hawaii, Davis has spent the rest of his career at Midwest City High School.
One of the joys of his teaching career is seeing students continue to play music in college and later in life. Several students go on to play in college marching band and three of his former students now work as band directors with school district.
“When a kid calls or emails me to tell me what they’re doing in college band that really makes me think that we’re doing the right thing here,” Davis said. “I really like to hear that they’re still playing and enjoying it.”
An important part in sharing that love of music is connecting with the students.
“The kids need to enjoy what they’re doing,” Davis said. “If they are not playing music they like, then they won’t stick around. A lot of our kids enjoy marching band, and they really enjoy playing in the stands during games. And the more they are playing, the better they’re getting.”
Davis says he will miss interacting with students and planning music for performances. Concert band performances have been his favorite while he jokes that he “tolerates” marching band.
“I really enjoy concert band because we can play harder music,” he said. “Marching band has changed so much over the years. Marching band is ultra-competitive for large schools. And a lot of those other schools are charging students to be in band, and I just can’t see doing that.”
Davis grew up in Edmond and studied music education at UCO. A former teacher, Kenneth Allen inspired him to pursue a career in music education.
“I was around music growing up. My brother was in band and my mother played piano. But it was my seventh-grade band director, Mr. Allen that really made band enjoyable and made me want to get better,” he said.
After graduating at the end of the fall semester, Davis took a job at a lumberyard because there were not any teaching vacancies at the time.
He later got a call from a principal at Monroney Junior High School about a vacancy. Davis was hired and taught for two years and later moved to Midwest City High School.
In 1999, Davis left the school for Hawaii. The family relocated to the islands after his wife was hired to manage physical therapy clinics there and Davis taught at a local school. The family moved back to Oklahoma two years later, after 9/11.
“After 9/11 they pulled my wife’s contract and she and our two boys came home,” Davis said. “I finished out the semester and moved back at Christmas.”
The principal at Midwest City High School heard they were returning to town and asked Davis if he would be interested in returning to his old job. Davis worked for a semester at Whittier Middle School in Norman before returning to Midwest City High School in the fall.
In his absence, band enrollment dwindled from a high of 170 students in 1999 to 56 in 2001.
Davis said he has continued to enjoy teaching but admits the past year has been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He saw participation in band drop as several students opted for online schooling, and changes to the school schedule limited the amount of rehearsal and classroom time with students.
“I just decided after this year that I was not going to do another year,” he said. “This year has been really tough and challenging. My family did not want me to teach this year, but I decided that I couldn’t quit in July.”
Davis said he doesn’t have any concrete plans for retirement.
“People ask me that all the time, but I don’t really have any hobbies,” he said. “There are some things I’d like to do and hope to travel and spend more time with family.”