Vineland High School will be losing the face of the Marching Clan after this school year as band director and teacher Bill McDevitt heads toward retirement. McDevitt, who has been teaching in the VHS music department and serving as the Marching Band director, will retire after 30 years of service.
The decision wasn’t spur of the moment, but rather as the result of two years of planning and preparation.
“I knew two years ago that it was time,” McDevitt said. “It was after the first football game, after the first full week of school on a Friday night. Driving home I felt tired. And it was the first time in 34 years that I actually felt tired going home and I knew that was the signal. It was not going to get better at that point.”
Having the two years to prepare has made a world of difference, not only giving him time to ensure that both the band and the music department are in the right hands, but to reflect on what the last three decades have meant. When asked what his most memorable experience was as band director, however, McDevitt found it hard to name just one.
“I could probably go through every single year and give you a good and bad experience from each one,” he said.
What it came down to was the singular experience of teaching music and working with such a dedicated group of students.
“I think the thing that is so different about this job compared to almost any other job on the campus is that I have kids for four years,” McDevitt said. “If they’re in the band it’s very rare that they drop out, so I’ll see them for four years. I get to know them, their families are very involved, so by the time they graduate we all know each other very well.”
It’s that involvement and commitment that will prove to be the biggest change in McDevitt’s post-retirement life.
“The fall is pretty intense,” he said. “I’m going to miss it. September, October, and November always flew by because we were just constantly going. It’s going to be difficult for me to slow that pace down. I know I’ll definitely feel it once we get to that time next school year.”
Having the time to prepare for his retirement also allowed McDevitt to oversee how his classes were distributed, along with the change in band leadership. It was a collaborative process, with the department and staff playing to their strengths so that the students would benefit the most from the new division. Eileen Bosco, music teacher at VHS, has been working with McDevitt both in the department and the marching band for the last 20 years. She will take over as new director.
“I know I’m leaving it in good hands,” McDevitt said. “Knowing is a relief. I think the program needs a new and younger perspective to keep up with other people. I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m happy with the way the department has progressed, but I think it’s time to hand it over.”
As the school year wound down, McDevitt found that he was already moving into a post-retirement state of mind.
“I already play more than I used to,” he said. “I’m getting back to that, back to what started it all. But as for anything else, I’m just playing it by ear. I keep thinking that there’s so much I can do, so I want to find something that is new and different. I want to travel and be able to enjoy it.”
When asked if he had any advice to impart to his students, McDevitt smiled.
“I have this saying, and the kids can finish it for me by now. Don’t get to the end and say ‘I wish I would have.’ Don’t regret not doing something because you wanted to put it off or you thought you had time. I’ve done it too many times and I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Best of luck in your future endeavors, Mr. McDevitt. VHS will miss you!