LANSING | When Gayle Robey-Herrbach first saw the 1995 film “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” she saw parallels between the namesake character played by actor Richard Dreyfuss and David Allie, the band director from her days at Memorial Junior High School.
That film about an aspiring jazz musician whose “temporary” job as a high school music teacher turned into a life-long career culminated with a scene in which decades’ worth of Mr. Holland’s students performed a concert in his honor.
“When I saw that, I said to myself, ‘I want to do something like that for Mr. Allie when he retires’,” Robey-Herrbach said.
On Saturday, that is exactly what will happen — as about 95 of the thousands of students Allie had during his 36 years of teaching at Memorial will come together as the David Allie Alumni Band, performing in a concert at 4 p.m. at T.F. South High School, 18500 Burnham Ave.
Those alumni, some of whom are coming from as far away as California, Pennsylvania and Texas, will show just how much of the musical skills they still have even though some haven’t picked up an instrument in decades.
But from Allie’s earliest students at Memorial in the late 1970s to his most recent who comprise the band programs at T.F. South, they all tell a common tale — Allie was the man who not only taught them the technical skills but also gave them a sense of pride to want to play as good as they possibly could.
Holly Moore, a 1979 Memorial graduate who now lives in Porter, said the fact that the band program took trips to places such as Washington, D.C., “made us all want to play our very best.”
Robey-Herrbach, from the class of 1987, expressed a similar sentiment. “Other junior high bands were performing local recitals, while Mr. Allie had us winning national awards and playing as well as many college-level band programs.”
Mariah Davila, currently a T.F. South freshman, said, “I was not good at first, but he gave me a sense of wanting to get my skills up there.”
For his part, Allie said he is flattered that his students would want to return on his behalf, and he also was pleased that they approached him in advance to tell him of the concert and even allow him to pick out the songs to be performed. Those songs include “They Led My Lord Away,” the theme from “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Mr. Touchdown, USA," which happens to be Memorial’s fight song.
Allie, who spent his entire adult working career at Memorial after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, said he has no regrets about never having moved on elsewhere. He likes that he worked for a school district and in a community that supported band programs.
“This is my home,” he said. “There are so many positive things, why would I want to leave?”
But after 36 years, he said he feels now is the time to consider moving on but he hopes to continue to offer music lessons in his post-Memorial lifetime.
“I’m going to keep teaching music in some form,” he said.