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In memory of Mr. Dennis Banks

When I was in high school, I was the drum major of one of the best marching bands in New England, at Cheshire High School in Cheshire, Connecticut. Today I learned of the death of one of the people who was most influential in my development as a young leader, on and off the field, Dennis Banks. He was 59.

When we came back the next fall ('84 - the first year we performed Stravinsky's 'Firebird'), we knew band camp was going to be different, with the "drum corps" style. We didn't really know what to expect. This guy gets up and Mr. Mancinelli our band director says a few things about how he has been with some of the top corps in the country, he deserves our respect, looks forward to welcoming him, and introduces Dennis Banks. His words were few, and direct. His "it's up to you" speech was basically, "I can take you as far as you want to go. I want to win. If you want to be the best, do what I tell you, we will all work our butts off, and we will be champions. It's up to you. Any questions?"

Anna Notation '86, a bookish flautist and sci-fi geek with a heart of gold, raised her hand and asked, "What should we call you? Are you Dennis, or Mr. B, or what?" He stared at her (with that stare of his), paused for about five or six seconds and said quietly, with a steel tone, "You will call me Mr. Banks."

Our jaws dropped. We were in a new universe. When we went outside and marched down to the practice field and *heard* him for the first time, really letting us know what it was going to be like, we got it. And from that point forward, the future of the CHSMRB was set. He set the tone by simply telling us who he was.

As a drum major for two years, I got to see him outside the lines, as it were. He was a very generous person who truly loved seeing kids grow beyond themselves and relished the success that came from hard work. He never faulted people for making mistakes when learning a show. He faulted people for making the same mistakes again. You learned not to do that.  :)

He was always Mr. Cool after we had performed at a show, before the scores were announced. He enjoyed strutting around after we had put it all out on the field, cigar at the ready. The smiles he flashed at us when we nailed it were genuine, hard fought, and deserved. When we won the EMBA Championship in '88 (with my brother Mark as drum major), setting a then-high score and sweeping everything, we understood what Winning It All meant, at last. That he was able and willing to inspire thousands of students over the years to work hard and feel the singular pleasure of a perfect show is a testament to his character and love of students. What an incredible gift.

I never knew his family. I hope to convey to them the enormous effect he had on those of us who had the pleasure of working with him. He was a great influence on my life and many others in the band for which I am grateful and proud. --Brad Patrick 20:27, 14 June 2007 (UTC)