Three band directors find themselves intertwined through their vocation for a total of 105 years.
When Skyline fifth graders checked out musical instruments on Sept. 5, there was a lot of musical history in the room. Skyline Band Director Bob Lee helped students and parents through the process. Former band directors Bob Bitter and Don Buhler, both representatives of Sensensy Music of Wichita were on hand to help students make their instrument selection and to advise on proper care of instruments.
Among these three music teachers, they have 105 years of teaching experience.
Don Buhler has 36 years of teaching experience with 3 at Stafford, 3 at Salina Central and 30 at Pratt High School.
Bob Bitter has 35 years with 3 at Syracuse, 9 at Pratt, 17 at Sacred Heart and 6 at Skyline. He also ran B&L Music in Pratt.
Bob Lee taught 22 years at Pratt High School and 11 at Skyline.
Their lives have intertwined over the years. Buhler took over for Bitter at Pratt High School. Lee was Buhler’s assistant for five years then took over the head band director for three years when Buhler taught at another district. Buhler returned to Pratt and was once again head band director while Lee took the assistant role.
Bitter had been teaching at Skyline for six years and decided to retire so Lee took over as band director for the Thunderbirds and is now in his eighth year. This years seniors include his first class of fifth graders, Lee said.
Lee said he has know Bitter and Buhler for 33 years. He worked with Buhler at Pratt High School and Bitter was running B&L Music. Lee was fresh out of college when he arrived in Pratt and right away he had two mentors, Buhler at school and Bitter at the music store. This flourished into a lasting friendship that continues today. A couple of times a year, the three would gather for lunch, discuss what they had going on and they had a great time.
“I still value their opinions to this day,” said Lee who enjoys teaching music because it’s a chance to share music with young kids, share his passion for music and hope the students want to be part of something good and strong.
Buhler said band directors take care of themselves. Bitter made sure the Buhler got off to a good start in Pratt. Bitter made sure Buhler wanted to stay in Pratt.
As band directors, they make relationships and help each other out. They keep in touch with each other. Buhler said his work with Sensensy Music in Wichita helps him help other band directors across southwest and south central Kansas. It helps get kids started early with a worthwhile activity in band and music.
Bitter said the three men have helped each other over the years. When Lee was looking at the Skyline job and Bitter wanted to retire, Bitter took Lee and his wife Kim on a band trip to Branson. Bitter basically turned over the baton to Lee for the bands number and it turned out to be a smooth transition when Lee took over as band director the next year. All three of Lee’s children were in the band at Skyline.
“You don’t always get the opportunity to do that kind of thing,” Bitter said.
Both Pratt and Skyline High School bands played for football games, opening the season Friday night. The Kansas State Fair features many state bands this coming Wednesday in Hutchinson. Skyline will be there marching down Main.