Canfield Takes A Bow

After 33 years band director retires from teaching


Director John Canfield and senior Natalie Sustek. Photo courtesy; Ranger Regiment twitter.

Jacquie Hernandez, Reporter

Friday Night Lights. Buzz of florescent still in the ear. The energy, music, the held breaths, all gave away at the end of the night, where routine falls back in place and students trudge makeshift to change and put away the gear to get home as soon as possible. The downtime led to talk, plans, catch up, until a hush falls over the gathered band as director John Canfield steps in front of the group and begins.

The late-night talks, the imparted wisdom, the exhaustion and excitement of a Friday night football game; and then later, the mornings’ music, the life stories, and contest cram—are coming to an end for Canfield. He will officially retire after this school year, after a 33-year career dedicated to music.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Canfield said. “I’m happy that I’m going to get some time back, but I’m sad in a way that I’ll miss the students, miss the directors I teach with. I still like what I do a lot.”

Canfield has taught for 33 years as a band director, 12 years for EMS ISD at Saginaw High School and from the time CTHS opened, here.

“What I’ve learned is that the longer I teach, the more I find out how much I don’t know,” Canfield said, then laughed. “That’s what I learned. When I first started I thought ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready, man! I can do this no problem!‘ –and then the more I got into it, I’d think—’oh gosh!‘. There’s so much more involved that no days are the same—that’s the great thing about teaching. I’ve learned that you gotta keep learning.”

When Canfield first started, he never expected the number of hours the profession required.

“I remember when I first taught, I was so tired,” he said. “The days were so long and you’re exhausted. Depending on the season and all that, you’re definitely exhausted mentally. Our typical hours are 12 hours a day.”

Despite that, the students were what kept him in the profession for so long.

“Every single student impacted my life,” Canfield said. “I’m who I am today by the thousands of students. I’m a different person from when I first started.”

He has taught roughly 12,000 students in his years of teaching. He said each one of them has changed his life. He hopes he was able to impact theirs.

“I had a band director, Mr. Brian,” Canfield said. “He ended up being this great professional flutist. Went on tour and all that, and when I was in band, all the kids thought he was the best musician ever. One day he goes, ‘John, you’re a good musician, do you play piano?‘ It doesn’t sound profound at all. That’s all he asked, but because he asked that. I thought, in his mind he thought I was actually a musician because he thought I could play piano.”

To this day, those words have encouraged him more than anything else.

“After that, I worked so hard to get better,” Canfield said. “Anytime I would get down, I would think about that and think: okay, maybe I can do this. I think you find out that if one person thinks you can do it and you think you can do it, you really feel like you can do it. He inspired me a lot.”

From vowing to never take a bus across state lines again to losing a kid at the Vatican, Canfield had had a rich and extraordinary career. Now at the wake of the end, Canfield hopes he has left something valuable to the students at Chisholm Trail.

“A family. I hope we have created a family and made everyone feel welcomed and feel like they have a place,” Canfield said. “I was always proud I had the leaders that represented all kinds of people because that’s one the greatest things about Chisholm Trail High School—the diversity.”