Stisher’s swan song
After transforming the music department for the past 31 years, the man who has done it all and has always done it with a smile on his face, is wrapping up his last year as head director and is ready to pass the baton to whoever is next. Mickey Stisher has decided to conclude his band director chapter at the end of the school year and is starting to write the next: working for a travel agency company.
Stisher has spent the last 40 years teaching, nine of which were spent prior to La Porte. He spent four years as an associate band director at Jefferson City High School in Missouri. Then, he headed north and spent five years as the director of bands at Yorktown High School in Indiana. His last year before coming to La Porte High School was spent down at Louisiana State University where he was a graduate assistant and a conducting intern.
The nine years of teaching at all of the schools prior to La Porte were vital in giving Stisher the skills and confidence to do all of the incredible things he has done with the LPHS band program.
When Stisher first arrived at LPHS in 1988, the superintendent gave him a warning that the Marching Band was a little rough around the edges and slightly unmotivated. They hadn’t even dreamt of being in the State Finals, let alone actually having the skills to achieve it. After Stisher started teaching, disciplining, and guiding the LPHS band, his fourth year of teaching was spent down in Indianapolis for a weekend at the State Finals.
Taking a band that barely knew anything, was unmotivated, and had no clue of the potential within itself all the way to the State Finals only four years later was the ultimate transformation and is only a piece of what Stisher has made the LPHS band program as a whole.
Besides Marching Band, Stisher also teaches Jazz, Concert Band, and Wind Ensemble. His favorite moments have been the endless amount of times his band students– Jazz Band, Concert Band, and Wind Ensemble–have been awarded golds at ISSMA contest, but it hasn’t always been the large moments that have made Stisher proud. He has enjoyed being in the front seat conducting, listening, and educating his students through every moment: good and bad.
“Many [proud moments] have been when our bands reached our State Finals in Marching, Concert, and Jazz, but equally are when I see/hear that my students finally get that part in their music they have struggled to be able to perform well. Sometimes it’s the little things and not just the ‘big trophy’ moments,” Stisher said.
After all of these years of conducting the bands, Stisher finally knew in March that it was time to wrap things up at LPHS.
“I’ve been thinking about it, or rather trying to plan for it, for a few years now. I honestly didn’t think it could happen for another year, but many things in our lives aligned to make this the right time,” Stisher said.
Since Stisher has been involved in the band for all of these years, he hasn’t had the opportunity to travel and enjoy life with less responsibilities. Now is Stisher’s chance to live with less weight on his shoulders, but the memories he has made as a director will remain forever.
“My wife, Teri, and I will be relocating to the Indianapolis area, and I will be starting a second career as a Travel Designer with Music Travel Consultants, a company that specializes in customized tours and trips primarily for elementary through university music performing ensembles,” Stisher said.
He is excited to continue the passion for music in his life by working for the music travel company, but a little piece of him will always be back in La Porte.
If there is anything that Stisher could tell his past, present, or future students, he would tell them to find something they love and make a living doing it. He truly believes that’s the main way to live the happiest life possible.
Stisher has spent the past 31 years living by his own rulebook, and now that he is saying goodbye to the band director days, he advises the future head band director to ride things out and adjust as needed.
“Don’t make big changes in your first year. Follow your gut and do what’s best for the kids,” Stisher recommended.
The last 31 years that Stisher has taught at LPHS have brought an overwhelming amount of opportunities for all Slicers. La Porte is saying goodbye to a beloved and irreplaceable legend.