Band director retires with plans for traveling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
After leading bands for three decades, Crawford AuSable School District Band Director Matt Bishop is laying down his baton.
Bishop is retiring from the position he has held with the school district for the last 15 years on June 30.
Bishop plans to stay in Grayling, but he has aspirations to hit the road.
“I bought a camper and I’m going out to see what I’ve been missing out on in life,” he said. “I’m going to start just touring around Michigan, and visiting friends and just relaxing.”
A native of Dewitt, Bishop played in the school band from sixth grade through his senior year.
“I fell in love with it and have just been around it ever since,” he said.
Bishop’s band director encouraged him to experiment with learning several instruments. He also attended band camps, and was a member of the first Lions Clubs of Michigan All State Band, which traveled to perform in Tokyo in 1978.
“By doing the extra things, too, you’re adding to value of what you’re learning with the music,” Bishop said.
Bishop attended Central Michigan University, where he played in the marching band, concert band as well as in jazz bands.
Bishop’s first job was for the Camden-Frontier School District. He taught band as well as science classes. He had no background with science, but was certified to teach seventh and eighth grade education.
“That’s what they needed me to do, so I did that for a year and said I can’t do this again,” he said.
Bishop then hopscotched up the east side of Michigan, teaching for Fowlerville for two years, Kinde-North Huron for six years, Byron for two years, Au Gres-Sims for three years, and Alpena for two years. He said he was laid off due to budget cuts to music and fine arts from a couple of positions.
In other situations, Bishop was allowed to move up a notch on the career ladder or find a better fit in a community.
“I moved to this community and I think I fit in pretty well,” he said.
Bishop had previously visited the Crawford AuSable School District and toured its school facilities when band director Dennis Ormsbee was hired in 1985.
The Crawford AuSable School District used to have two band directors and offered a middle school jazz band, music history, and beginning band. Now, the jazz band includes seventh through 12th grade students, and the director teaches at the Grayling High School, Grayling Middle School, and Grayling Elementary School.
The second band director’s position was eliminated several years ago.
“It’s just due to budget cutbacks and it’s what happens,” Bishop said.
Bishop said the band director’s position in Grayling is not a typical June through September teaching job. The band director has to remain in the community during the summer for the Fourth of July Parade, the AuSable River Festival parade, Lovells Bridge Walk, and band camps.
“You don’t have time to go on big long trips because you always have to come back and do something here,” Bishop said. “Now, I’ll just be able to go away for a month at a time.”
Bishop is proficient with his main instrument, the saxophone, and also plays the trumpet, clarinet, and bassoon. He said he is fairly decent at playing the trombone at certain levels, but falls short when it comes to flute. His students have learned that as a way he keeps his classroom under control.
“If the kids are getting too noisy and are not listening to me, ‘I say if you’re not going to listen to me, I’m going to get the flute out and I’ll play the flute if you’re not going to be quiet,’” Bishop said.
Bishop was honored as the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Teacher of the Year for District Two, which covers 41 middle school and high schools in the northern Lower Peninsula, in 2013. He was a finalist for the teacher of the year award in 2014. Shelley Schwaderer-Roland won the award that year.
“She is good friend of mine that I used to teach near in the Thumb that won it, so that was pretty cool,” Bishop said.
Bishop will continue to teach at band camps and judge band festivals and solo ensemble festivals. He said it would be bittersweet not being with students on a day-to-day basis.
“I going to miss just being with the kids every day,” he said. “I’m going to miss that a great deal.”
Jeff Muraida, from Jolliet, Illinois, has been tapped as Bishop’s successor.
Bishop took applicants for the job on tours of the district’s school buildings. He also arranged for band to come in on a Saturday morning to work with Muraida.
“He did great,” Bishop said. “The kids loved what they saw so far and they can’t wait to have him as their teacher.”
Bishop noted that he, Ormsbee, and Muraida all had 15 years of teaching under their belts before being hired to serve the students in Grayling.
“It’s pretty cool that we’ve all had similar backgrounds,” Bishop said.
Bishop will continue to play with the East Shore Symphony and a saxophone quartet based out of Alpena.
He will also continue to serve as a substitute bus driver for the Crawford AuSable School District, a job he picked up over the last year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bishop said. “I have a great time driving bus with those kids.”
Bishop ended one of his favorite traditions last week, taking the band students to Cedar Point and to Comerica Park for a Detroit Tigers game.
“It’s an end of the year celebration,” he said. “It’s a reward trip and a trip that you take together with your friends for the last time. It’s always a great time.”
Bishop said the Grayling Band Carnival will continue come to the community as a fundraiser to support band programs.
Crawford AuSable School District Superintendent Joe Powers said school officials offered well wishes as Bishop moves on with his life.
“Matt Bishop has had a very illustrious career for the last 15 years at the Crawford AuSable Schools, and with 30 years total teaching band to many, many students,” Powers said. “Matt will be remembered fondly by all of the students and adults he interacted with in his professional career. We wish Matt good luck as he enters his next phase of life.”
Besides going camping and some other planned trips, Bishop will maintain his roots in Grayling with his dogs Drummond and DeTour.
“I have a lot of good friends here,” he said.