Rose Parade honors Sewell upon impending retirement
BUY THIS PHOTORYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWSPickerington High School Central's Band Director Mike Sewell warms up the band at the beginning of class Monday, Feb. 23. Sewell will be retiring at the end of the year.
In the final year of a storied career, Mike Sewell's swan song recently received sweet accompaniment courtesy of a special recognition from the Tournament of Roses Parade.
After 35 years in teaching Sewell, who come to the Pickerington Local School District in fall 1981, has constructed an impressive resume acknowledged far and wide.
As band director at Pickerington High School and Pickerington High School Central, his feats include induction to the Whitehall Yearling High School Hall of Fame (1994), Pickerington High School Teacher of the Year (2000), Pickerington Local School District Teacher of the Year (2007), Ohio Grange Educator of the Year (2007) and a 2013 nomination for the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award.
He's also taken Pickerington bands to four Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades, three Fiesta Bowl Parades, two Orange Bowl Parades and four Tournament of Roses Parades.
The Marching Tigers are one of two bands in the nation that have marched in both the Macy's Thanksgiving Day and Rose parades in the same school year, and they're the only Ohio band to have marched in four Rose Parades (1993, 1997, 2006 and 2010) under the same director.
After he led the Marching Tigers to second place in the Fiesta Bowl Parade band competition Dec. 27, Sewell and wife, Karen, were invited to a special Rose Parade brunch and recognition ceremony Dec. 31.
There, Sewell was honored for his bands' repeat Rose Parade appearances, as well as his help in planning the combined appearances for the parade's 2005 Band Fest with Pickerington High School North.
He also was recognized for his work in the 2009 Band Fest, which featured the Marching Tigers, the Ohio University Marching 110 and the Ohio School for the Blind marching band.
"It was a very special honor and a great opportunity to say thanks once again to all the wonderful folks we have met over the years during our appearances in the parade," Sewell said.
"I think the recognition just reinforces what great, warm, welcoming and talented kids we have had throughout the years in the Tiger Band."
The accolades were "extra special" because Oregon University Director of Bands Rodney Dorsey -- a student under Sewell when he was a graduate assistant at Florida State University -- joined him and Karen at the brunch.
He also noted it "fit nicely," given he will retire from PHS Central at the end of this school year.
Although his passion hasn't wavered, Sewell is calling it a career because of changes in Ohio's retirement and benefits policies. He said stepping away is the "best thing for myself and my family's future," and he believes he's had a "great run."
Others likely would agree, including the Pickerington Lions Club, which in 2012 named Sewell, retiring PHS and PHS Central Theater Director Margaret Lawson and retiring PHS and PHS Central Vocal Music Director John Long grand marshals of that year's Labor Day parade.
At that time, then-Pickerington Lions Club Labor Day Parade co-chairwoman Darlene Kuzmic said the honorees were, "such a dynamic trio and brought so many wonderful arts events and experiences to the community, we thought it would be a great opportunity to honor them now."
Sewell said his devotion to music has been lifelong, and his dedication to music education has extended his entire career.
While he's gained acclaim as a high school band director, he listed early instruction and nurturing students' musical talents throughout their formative years among the top perks of his job.
"I have the opportunity to start students on their instruments in the sixth grade at Diley Middle School, follow them through junior high and then be their band director for their four years in high school," Sewell said.
"Not many teachers have this very special aspect to their jobs.
"I see them grow from curious, sometimes goofy young kids into amazingly talented and brilliant young men and women," Sewell said. "We share so much more than music over those years."
Sewell said he's tried to instill in his students that "the most important thing they can give to someone is their time," and he asks that they adhere to his motto of "Service through Musicianship."
He originally aspired to take a Pickerington band to just one national parade, so the return invites and performing in the 2001 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade just two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are lasting reflections.
"Another proud memory is having each of my children in the Tiger Band and music program," he said. "Dan, Alyson, Andrew and Lea were Marching Tigers and in chorale.
"It was sure a thrill to direct them all from the pit orchestra when they performed in our musicals."
Beyond that, Sewell said he's "extremely proud" of the Marching Tigers' work in an annual donation drive for the Ronald McDonald House at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
He also hopes his tradition of honoring military veterans with Veteran's Day and Memorial Day concerts and dinners both in Pickerington and Washington, D.C., will continue after he moves on.
And while he has no concrete retirement plans, getting his doctorate or teaching college music classes are possibilities.
"I will enjoy attending OU football games to cheer Lea on in the Marching 110, and John Long, retired vocal music teacher and dear friend, has some plans for me.
"I will miss the students and making music with them, but more importantly, I will miss being a part of their lives and sharing so many amazing things.
"I will always be a Tiger and will continue to cheer them on ... just from the sidelines for a change."