THINKING OUT LOUD - Getting teens to 'Give everything you've got'

Wow. I am pretty sure I have never made it through a performance of the Edison High School Marching Band without exclaiming that word at least once.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

Wow.

I am pretty sure I have never made it through a performance of the Edison High School Marching Band without exclaiming that word at least once.

Sometimes I say it simple awe of how big the band is. When they take the field, they cover most of it.

Sometimes it is because of some showy thing they do: streamers and instruments sparkling in the electric lights invented by their namesake.

Most often, of course, it is the sheer power of the music that does it. From "Sing, Sing, Sing" the original hot tune for a big band and now 70 years old to the latest thing off last summer's charts, the Edison band has the capacity to deliver it in a way that can make the hair on your neck stand up.

Wow.

I've never seen them at Cleveland Browns Stadium or the Festival of Lights in Ft. Myers or any of the other big or national venues they've played. I just catch them at Monroeville or Western Reserve or at their own annual band show in Milan. But I know they are good.

Excellent high school marching bands like this and there are others within the circulation of this newspaper always amaze me: There is so much to organize and so many things that can go wrong.

So, when it all turns out right when lots of us are in the grandstand saying "Wow!" it is usually for one reason: There is an exceptional individual in charge of the band.

And for the past 36 years, that has been the case at Edison. Nick Georgiafandis Mr. G to almost everyone has spent his entire career refining to near-perfection the high school band that represents the Berlin-Milan school district.

He's retiring at the end of this school year, and I didn't want him to get away without one last tribute in this column.

My admiration for what Mr. G has accomplished at Edison is no secret. EHS band stories have filled this space twice previously. The second time, a band member confided to me, Mr. G mentioned the story in a band meeting saying simply: "I think he really likes our band."

He's right. And he should have known why from the first story I wrote about him and his band.

That column started with my recollection of standing along Huron Street in Milan as the Melon Festival Parade was forming one year.

Each unit was moving to its designated position. No problem for a garden tractor pulling a farm wagon float; quite another thing when your unit consists of more than 100 zany teenagers at summer's end.

Then I noticed Nick Georgiafandis moving among those young people. I don't know if he was even saying anything, but suddenly they were in handsome band formation, ready to march. It was inspiring to watch as they gave him their full attention.

The only instruction he gave them was at once simple and profound: "Let's give everyone a good show. But when you get to the parade judging stand, give them everything you've got."

Many an adult has given up on expecting any effort at all from the teenagers in their charge, never mind "everything you've got."

But Nick Georgiafandis turned "everything you've got" into the standard for the Edison High School Marching Band.

It's an amazing legacy that many of us have come to take for granted.

But as time goes by, I have a feeling people will look back on the service Mr. G provided to the Berlin-Milan School District, and sum it up in one simple word.

Wow.

Comments

Gregory Ruffer ...

Thank you, Jim, for such a nice story. My mother emailed it to me and it made me smile as I read. Nick and his wife, Kelly, were friends of mine many years ago and an inspiration to make music my career. You do a great service to the community by holding up such a wonderful man in this way.
Gregory Ruffer
Music Director/Founder - The Orlando Chorale, Orlando, FL
Director of Vocal Music - Central Florida Community College
Doctoral Candidate - Columbia University, New York, NY