Standing from left are Kurt Bauche, Dr. Kevin White, Dan Schunks and Dr. Joe Gilgour. Photo by Danielle Basler
After long career of teaching music at high school, college level
A dedication ceremony celebrating a local legend among Missouri band directors was held Thursday on the Park Hills campus of Mineral Area College when the school’s band room was officially named in honor of long-time North County High School band director and MAC graduate Dan Schunks.
Accompanying Schunks to the ceremony was his wife, Ellen.
Dr. Joe Gilgour, MAC president, welcomed everyone to the dedication saying, “Today is a special day. This is my fifth year [as MAC president], and I don’t get to do ceremonies where we name things after people very often. That’s something presidents like to do, and so I’m excited about this.
“We’re here today to dedicate this room to Dan Schunks. We had a very generous, anonymous donation of $50,000 to our music department, and one of the donor’s requests was that we name this room after the man who spends a lot of time here.”
Following a rousing arraignment of the National Anthem performed by a band directed by Dr. Kevin White, Gilgour called Kurtto the podium. Bauche served as director of bands in the Farmington R-7 School District from 1982 until his retirement in 2012.
“As Dr. Gilgour mentioned, we’d like to welcome you this morning to this special event here at the Fine Arts Building at Mineral Area College. I’d like to thank Dr. Joe Gilgour, Dr. Keith Zoromski and the trustees for making this event a reality. I would also like to thank Dr. Roger McMillan for his assistance during the last academic year because he was very instrumental in why we’re here today. Lastly, I’d like to thank the Mineral Area Fine Arts Academy and its executive director Amanda Dement for their contribution to the Fine Arts Department here at Mac recently and for keeping music and theater alive. We know how important they have been to what needs to happen here at our community college.
“We’re here to premiere the naming of the Mac band room in honor of Mr. Dan Schunks. We thank Dan for his contribution to music education not only in St. Francois County but all over the state of Missouri. His impact on music for students of all ages is far-reaching, having provided instruction to, I’m sure, even at the elementary age, but in his teaching career, middle school band students up through many, many older adults. I don’t want to pin an age on any of those, but you know we’ve had some folks in the community band — and it was just a pleasure to have people of all ages come and join us for that ensemble. I don’t know that Dan can pinpoint the oldest person he’s instructed, but I know that the number of people and the age group that he has touched over the years is remarkable.”
Bauche recalled that Schunk’s contributions to Mineral Area College through the years had included instruction in applied brass, music appreciation, steel drum ensemble, conductor of the Community Band and leader of the Kicks Band for 30 years, a post he retired from only recently.
“These outstanding ensembles have appeared at the state level, which is a major accomplishment showcasing not just the talent but his leadership, his artistic ability to get to those groups to play to the highest level possible to be showcased in our state. The highlight of Dan’s professional career was being named the Outstanding Missouri Jazz Educator in 2015. All of this, though, were facts and figures.
“These numbers show a wealth of commitment, but numbers really aren’t measurable for what Dan has given us, and that’s passion. You can’t measure that with a number. You can only measure it by being involved, being with him, being in front of him, being in his ensembles, being with him in meetings, and being with him as we travel around the state to showcase our craft. That’s one thing we’ve all gained from Dan that you can never put a number on.”
Off the top of his head, Bauche began listing the names of past and present members of MAC’s Fine Arts staff, including Schuncks.
These legendary individuals have made their mark on MAC and told their story through us,” he said. “We rem
ember people now, such as Dan, who made that so impossible to believe that we could have that many people involved and that much passion given to us here at our community college. He singly shares his passion through his teaching and now the naming of this room. It’s a bridge between the past and the future. Congratulations.”
At this point in the program, Schunks was called to the podium to speak.
Addressing the crowd, he said, “I am deeply honored and very appreciative of this achievement that you all are bestowing on me. But I have to remind you that I’m standing on the shoulders of those who came before me. And in education, that’s what we do. We simply pass our knowledge on to those who come after us. And I’ve had marvelous teachers, particularly here. I have had a 52-year relationship with this institution as a student and, as a director, as a musician. And it allowed me to come here as a student — not a music person, by the way — but all music scholarship. [MAC] allowed me to come here and define what I wanted to be in life. And when I came here, I was going to be a history or a poly-sci major and save the world through government. When I left, it became pretty obvious to me music was what I really probably needed to do. I remember telling my parents, ‘I’m changing my major to music. Their answer was, ‘Well, why in God’s name did you wait two years? You had a scholarship.’ And you know, the typical kid response was, ‘I don’t know.’
“But it’s a decision that I came to because of what I learned here and what I was allowed to become here. I found myself as an individual, and I found the path that I have followed, and I have never worked a day in my life because of it. So, I thank you who are here today. I thank all the students — but not just students — also the adults and people who played in the ensembles all those years that allowed me to conduct and share with you our passion. And it’s our, not just mine, our passion for music. And above all, thanks to my wife. For the tolerating, over 40 years — nights where I’d say, ‘I’ve gotta’ be gone. I’ve gotta go here.’ She’d ask, ‘Where are you this weekend?’ ‘Well, we’re going here, we’re going there.’ It takes a special individual to tolerate and put up with that and yet embrace and support me. I’ve always said, ‘My wife has always had my back and allowed me to pursue what I wanna’ pursue, which now, as it turns out, is journalism.”
Schunks was alluding to the fact that, after a life of focusing on music, he had — at the age of 70 — become a staff writer on the Daily Journal editorial staff several months ago.
Concluding his remarks, he said, “Thank you all so much. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and that is impossible to measure. But your commitment, your kindness, and the love we have shared through music have all enriched me as a person. I hope I have been able to reciprocate in some manner back to you. So, thank you very much. I’m deeply moved, and it’s greatly appreciated.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is the editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.