Dear Mr. Smigell

Photo by Richard Lim

Dear Mr. Smigell,

You wouldn’t recognize me if we met on the street or in the coffee shop. I wasn’t a band mom or a band booster because, quite frankly, I am possibly kind of lazy or not all that interested in or good at working in groups.

The truth is, I am all of that.

I am also one of your biggest fans.

How you take hundreds of teenagers and get them to make beautiful music is amazing. I have just one teenager and I can’t get him to replace the toilet paper when it runs out, and here you are with HUNDREDS of angsty teenagers, working together — in tune, nonetheless — making interesting, often-complicated, challenging music that quite frankly sometimes leaves me speechless because it’s just so good. How is this possible? How do you get herds of teenagers to produce like that? Perhaps you could share some tips.

The truth is, I am in awe.

After four years of various band classes and four years of marching band, my kid is heading off to a college somewhere (fingers crossed), and he is going out into the world armed with what he’s learned from it all. And while he’s learned a lot about music, perhaps more important is that he’s learned all that other stuff in band: about how to work well in a group, about understanding and kindness, about the importance of differentness, and about what it means to be part of a huge family because ours is really, really small.

Last night’s concert was my last with a kid in the program. And it was a great concert, to be sure. I especially loved the small sections highlighting individual students and smaller groups. “Grainger (Irish Tune from County Derry)” (which I always thought was just plain old “Danny Boy”) moved me. And following up that emotional piece with “Godzilla Eats Las Vegas” was genius, for lots of reasons. It was a complete change of pace, yes, and it was so unusual and creative and fun that I was left wanting more.

The truth is, I am really going to miss these concerts.

I am going to miss seeing my kid all dressed up and excited, and I am going to miss watching him make music with some of his best friends. I am going to miss after each concert my regretting not taking band when I was in high school. And I am sure going to miss all the fun I think you’re having while you conduct the show.

I know I’m always welcome to attend even though I don’t have a kid in band, but since I am kind of lazy and not all that crazy about large groups and confined spaces and the possibility of people coughing and sneezing around me, the chances that I do aren’t all that good.

So, I just wanted to thank you.

The truth is, the concerts over these past four years have been musically magical.

I will always treasure our time together.

Jason Smigell is director of bands at Howell High School.

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About Maria Stuart 122 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.


  1. It has been over 40 years since I was in band and I am still in contact with many band members(band Family). Great times great memories.thanks for the article

  2. I think most parents feel the exact same way. Jason Smigell has a way with the band kids, like no other. They love and respect him, and it shows in their music.

  3. I think you said it far better then I could ever attempt. Smigell is a true teacher he helps create magical music. He is there for our kids like none other we have ever had.

  4. Mr. Smigell and the Howell High School Band program are amazing! What a wonderful tribute to a well deserving man and teacher!

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