After 44 years of shaping young musicians, Duane DeVries decided to call it a career and now his students are working to thank him for the lasting impact he has made on their lives.
The Chambers band director has spent three generations working with budding musicians. He has led the band on the field, in the stands and in the streets as he made marching band a way of life for many Chambers students.
"I am old enough to remember a band that didn’t get a one but we were the first group he got to buy in to his program," said 1979 graduate James Burtwistle. "I can still remember the first district music contest that we got a one. Du went completely bonkers. In fact, we all did. My freshman year he started taking some of us golfing. Understand, this was before golf was real popular. Well, 41 years later we are still golfing. His priorities are always intact though, if he has to play piano at the nursing home, mow a lawn for a senior citizen, or rehearse for a wedding, golf has to wait. He is a great teacher, a great musician, and most importantly a great person. I am so proud to call him a dear friend."
As one such former student, 1997 graduate Nate Metschke, said, every former pupil of Mr. DeVries knows his priorities include God, family, band, Huskers and golf. In return for his dedicated tutelage for nearly three generations, Metschke and other former band members are hoping to give thanks to DeVries with an accessory to take out for one of his priorities.
"A while back, Darci Fleek Macklem, the current president of the Chambers Band Aides, sent out an e-mail to alumni who had a current e-mail address on hand at the school. In her e-mail she stated that they wanted to raise money to get Mr. DeVries a golf cart as a retirement gift for his 44 years of service to the school and community," Metschke explained. "I talked to Darci this morning and asked if it would be okay for me to set up a gofundme account."
"We really want to honor Mr DeVries for dedicating his life to the Chambers Public school and our community," added Macklem, a 1990 Chambers graduate. "He has helped put Chambers on the map. You can't travel anywhere that they haven't heard of the Chambers Coyote Marching Band or Mr. DeVries. We, as a community and alumni want to thank him and show our appreciation for all that he has done here in Chambers."
The group is raising money to purchase DeVries with a specialized "Chambers customized" golf cart to take on the links during retirement as a reminder of the impact he has had on the students of Chambers for many years.
"We have all been impacted by Mr. DeVries for the past 44 years," Metschke said.
"My experience growing up in Chambers was top notch," Metschke continued. "The pride that Mr. DeVries instilled in us was unbelievable. I learned so much from him as a student, and I still learn from him as he comes and listens to my band at Neligh-Oakdale when he can. My favorite memory would have to be our marching season where we played Mocombo. I have no idea how he pulled it off, but as a teacher now, it was an unbelievable group effort! We definitely got a class A band experience at a class D school."
Metschke and other former band members have set up a GoFundMe account for any former Chambers students to help fund the cart. A decision on whether it will be possible to afford the cart is needed by Thursday, June 22 in order to have enough time to get it customized. If the funds are met to purchase the specialized cart, DeVries will be presented with the gift after his final performance as head of the Chambers Band.
He will direct current and former Chambers band members during the town's annual Fourth of July Talent Show. Metschke hopes that many former members can join the band to help send off DeVries properly.
"Mr. DeVries picked out 10 songs that we plan to play," Metschke explained. "We will practice at the school at 3:30 p.m. on the Fourth and perform at 7 p.m. at the park for the talent show. This will be his final time directing us, and if it's even half as much fun as his surprise 40th Christmas Program band, it will be wonderful. I'm hopeful that lots of current high school students will join us, as their lips are in shape, and well, maybe some of us haven't been practicing like we should."
At the conclusion of the performance, the plan is to present DeVries with his personalized cart. However, Metschke stressed that while the plan is being made openly online, it is important to keep it a secret from DeVries who fortunately doesn't spend much time online.
"I'm sure he will be speechless, but this gesture is a small token of appreciation for all of the lives that he has touched," said Metschke.
Anyone wanting to donate can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/mr-devries-retirement-golf-cart. If anyone is wanting to join the band at the talent show, they are encouraged to contact Metschke at firstname.lastname@example.org so he can send them the music to practice beforehand.