Lee wanted the best for his students in music and life

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
First year Sterling High School Band Director Abby Giles meets with former Skyline Band Director Bob Bitter and retiring Skyline Band Director Bob Lee at the 2020 Kansas Music Festival In-Service Workshop. Bob Lee was Giles band director at Skyline and had a strong influence on her love of music.

One decision can set the path of a life and impact the lives of hundreds.

Bob Lee, Skyline High School Band and Choir director, has retired from teaching after 33 years as a music instructor at Skyline and Pratt. 

Lee said he is going to miss his daily interaction with the kids. He tells his graduating students to get involved with a college band. They will have instant friends and be part of a group that has the same interest. In the fall, Lee will have five students marching in Division I bands: Adison Hampton, Kayla Flora and Carter Smith at KU, Corey Crouch at KSU and his son, Carson, at Notre Dame. 

The impact Lee had on his students is the result of a choice he made 33 years ago.

Lee was finishing a dual degree in music education and computer programming at Fort Hays State University. In November of his last year, he received a job offer from Koch Industries in Wichita as a computer programmer. 

But Koch encouraged Lee to go ahead and do his student teaching in the spring before his final interview with them. Lee was also looking at band positions including an assistant position at USD 382. Lee had seen Pratt at band events at FHSU and knew their talent. 

“The Pratt band was always one of the top groups,” Lee said. 

Lee was dating his future wife Kim who was one year behind him in college. After talking with Kim about his choices, he took the job at Pratt in 1987. In 1988, Kim finished her degree. They were married in July and Kim started working at Skyline in August 1988 where she remains today. 

They planned on spending three or four years in Pratt then moving and building a band program somewhere else. But Lee liked Pratt and decided to stay.

For 25 years, he was assistant director for high school and middle school, under director Don Buhler, and director for fifth grade band. He also had a three-year stint as head band director. Lee was also district technology person and led the flag corps for two years. 

In 2012, Bob Bitter retired as band director at Skyline. Lee took over that position and three years later added choir director.  

Randi Hoffman, who will be a Skyline sophomore in the fall, said Lee always pushed his students to be the best they could. He was never satisfied with mediocre and wanted students to play their best and try as hard as they could. He took time for his students and made sure they enjoyed band. 

“He was always one of my favorite teachers. He gave me a great love for music,” Hoffman said. “He was a great teacher and he will be missed.” 

Former student Abby Giles has just completed her first year as 6-12 instrumental teacher at Sterling High School. Giles said it was good to see how Lee continued the legacy of a really good band program. He truly and genuinely cares for his students. He works hard to provide opportunities for his students like trips to Disney World, Giles said. 

Giles said during her first year of teaching, she remembered how Lee came to Skyline and created a legacy with the new ideas he brought with him.

“I think Mr. Lee is very innovative,” Giles said. 

Giles said Lee continues to support his students on social media.

“I appreciate seeing that and am inspired by what he is doing,” Giles said. 

Lee recorded many success at both Pratt and Skyline. At Pratt, the band was chosen for the Kansas Music Educators Association inservice workshop, one of only eight chosen in the state.

Pratt bands made four trips to Disney World and Skyline went twice. The PHS band also took trips to Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis and Dallas where the band attended a Texas Rangers game and saw Nolan Ryan pitch his last no-hitter. 

The Skyline choir performed at the Disney World Candle Light Procession, narrated by Neil Patrick Harris in December 2017. The Skyline pep band received the Most Spirited Pep Band in the nation from Varsity Brands. 

Lee’s faced some big challenges. His children attended and Kim taught at Skyline while he was teaching at Pratt and that led to scheduling conflicts. 

Keeping students interested in music is difficult with so many other available activities.

Lee, who is an Apple Professional Learning Specialist, hopes to use his computer skills to help teachers increase their technology skills. He also wants to judge music competitions during his retirement.