One Big Happy Family: NHS’s Beloved Band Director Shares His Story

By: Rachel Adams

Even after teaching for twenty-eight years, Mr. John Erdogan, NHS’s Band Director, hasn’t lost his enthusiasm  for the profession.

“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything different,” he said.

Mr. Erdogan in action in the classroom.
Mr. Erdogan in action in the classroom. (PHOTO, Adams)

His job includes much more than directing concert band, however.  Mr. Erdogan is also extremely instrumental in extra-curricular activities, such as jazz band and what he describes as “a whole lot of band-camping”.

Of course, no matter how hectic Mr. Erdogan’s life may get in the band room, he always makes time for his family.

“I have a wife, Rhonda, and two boys; Jordan is nineteen and Hunter is sixteen,” he said.  “I also have a cat and a chinchilla.”

While Mr. Erdogan did not say whether his wife and kids are musicians, he did mention that he comes from a very musical family.  His mother and uncles played instruments, and were part of his inspiration to learn.

Mr. Erdogan began his musical career when he was “a mere tot”, learning to play the trumpet in 5th grade.  He also took piano lessons, but not in the place that one would expect.

“I took piano lessons on a bus.”  Apparently, this bus was the learning place of many children who wished to perfect their piano playing.  A teacher stood at the head of the bus and spoke into a microphone, which transmitted straight into the students’ headphones and gave them instructions.

Mr. Erdogan played exclusively the trumpet and piano until 7th grade, when he switched briefly to French horn.  However, he soon switched back to his first love and stuck with it.

In 10th grade, Mr. Erdogan decided what he wanted to do with his life.

“I decided pretty early on that I wanted to be a band director,” he claimed.

Mr. Erdogan at his stand in the New Gym.
Mr. Erdogan at his stand in the New Gym. (PHOTO, Adams)

Mr. Erdogan received his undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University in Alabama, where he also participated in the Marching Southerners and other musical groups.  He received his graduate degree from East Carolina University.

It was during college that Erdogan also marched in drum corps – specificially, the Garfield Cadets.  They were one of the best, but every drum corps has its share of…unfortunate mishaps.

“We were preparing for the world championships in Atlanta,” Mr. Erdogan  said. “The end of the show had a very difficult move.”

That ‘difficult move’ was called the Z-Pull, named for its designer George Zingali.  The Garfield Cadets had nearly perfected this move, but their show at the Midwest Finals in Wisconsin went a little differently than planned.

“We were marching backwards at about one-eighty-eight [beats per minute].  The fellow on the end of the line wasn’t holding his distance.  I stepped on his foot, which trapped him.”

Mr. Erdogan smiled a little as he recalled the incident.

“I fell over him, and we all dominoed over one another.”

Seven people went down in all, in a sort of ‘domino effect’.  They all recovered fairly quickly, but the mistake cost them first place.  Instead, the Garfield Cadets were awarded second place.

Mr. Erdogan also has plenty of happy memories with the band he’s been teaching for twenty-eight years.  One of his first years teaching, the Newnan High School Marching Cats marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade in California.

As they reached the television center of the parade, the band let loose with Hang On Sloopy, the unofficial fight song of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Hundreds of fans cheered as the song played.

“The crowd was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard in my life,” Erdogan said with a whisper of nostalgia in his voice.  “I still get cold chills just thinking about it.”

Mr. Erdogan recalled these stories with such clarity, a sign of the love he has for what he does.  He says he plans to retire eventually, but not anytime soon.

“I would like to still be involved,” he answered when asked about his plans for the future. “[The students] make me feel young.”

Mr. Erdogan at his desk. (PHOTO, Adams)