Lakewood Ranch High's longtime director of bands will retire
The Lakewood Ranch High School Marching Mustangs' rehearsal often would go until 9 p.m., and Ron Lambert, the school’s director of bands, would be on campus well past 10 p.m.
After long days of arriving at the school early in the morning, teaching throughout the day, preparing for rehearsals, tending to other responsibilities and finally leading marching band rehearsal, Lambert would be exhausted.
So Lambert, whose accomplishments with the marching band included a stretch of 12 top-five finishes in the state competition in a 16-year period, sometimes would return to his office, pull out the airbed he stored there and go to sleep.
“Sometimes when we would host drum and bugle corps or simply work so late, if it was a better option, the airbed would come out,” Lambert said with a laugh.
Lambert was known for his dedication to the school’s numerous band programs, including the marching band, wind ensemble, wind symphony and jazz band.
After 17 years of dedication to bands in the School District of Manatee County, Lambert will retire Aug. 3 so he can focus on his family, his family business and other musical adventures, which include continuing to serve as the assistant director of the 10-time world champion Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“What I’ll miss most is the students,” Lambert said. “I think the kids can tell I love music and what it could do for them, so I think the sincerity I brought was respected. I think I’m going to miss that the most. I’ll miss standing in front of those kids.”
Lambert said the reason for his 17-year tenure as a director in the School District of Manatee County was the positive culture and support systems that have been in place. Lambert served as an assistant director at Lakewood Ranch High School for six years before becoming the director of bands at Southeast High School for two years and then returning to Lakewood Ranch High to be the director of bands.
“It’s just a wonderful place to work,” Lambert said. “The families and the kids are great.”
Throughout his 15 years with Lakewood Ranch High School, Lambert has taught generations of families.
“The bonds we have built are for life,” Lambert said. “One of the real joys is watching them grow up over the course of four years but then watching them come back to the band room or contact me to tell me what they’ve done in college or what they have accomplished in their professional lives. In several cases, relationships that started in the band room have now become marriages. I have band grandchildren where students that have gotten married now have their own families.”
Lambert recalled when Mallory Shirey, who graduated in June, was the band’s mascot at 5 years old. Mallory Shirey would dress in a Mustang horse costume and march in parades with the band. She was a drum major for the Marching Mustangs her junior and senior year.
Gloria Shirey, the mother of Mallory Shirey, said Lambert stayed true to the foundation Robert Schaer, the band director before Lambert who taught her other two children Lexi and Tyler Shirey, set up while adding his “personal touches, characteristics and creativity that brought the band to a new level.
Gloria Shirey said her children were taught lessons in being on time, working hard, seeing the benefits of hard work, and building relationships.
Marci Nauman, a parent of Lakewood Ranch High rising senior Ellie Nauman, said her daughter was anxious about starting high school four years ago, but when she joined the band program, that anxiety was alleviated.
“Mr. Lambert created such a family so the summer when they had band camp leading up to her freshman year, she got to know so many students,” Nauman said. “It made her feel comfortable. (The band program) challenged her to be better. She has taken that on and blossomed over the past few years.”
Ellie Nauman now will be leading the low woodwind section as a section leader.
“They support each other, care about each other and challenge each other to be the best musicians they can be,” Nauman said. “(Lambert) will take anybody into the marching band, whether you’ve picked up an instrument before or not, and there are people who will help you get better and teach you because that helps them improve the band program as a whole.”
As the band program continues to move forward, Lambert hopes the students, band leadership and families will continue the family atmosphere he helped cultivate over the years.
“A lot of time goes into maintaining a standard of excellence, and I’ve worked hard so the program is set up to continue to be successful,” Lambert said. “Most importantly, it’s instilling in the student leadership the values it will take to continue the family atmosphere. I would hope the life lessons I’ve shared with them last as well as all the accolades.”
Whether it was celebrating being a finalist at state competitions, grieving the loss of band members and parents or navigating how to perform during a global pandemic, the students and band program staff have supported each other as a band family.
Marching band members Dashwood Payen and Matthew Powers died in April and September 2018 respectively leaving the band grieving. Two band parents also died. Lambert also lost a best friend, Michael Higdon, who died in 2018.
“As a family we worked through it,” Lambert said. “I think (the students) could sense it hurt me a lot too even though it was my job to be strong for them. It’s one of those things where they knew I needed them.”
The marching band went on to place third in its division at the state championship in 2019, and the winter guard won state.
When the 2021-2022 Marching Mustangs had its first live performance at the school’s stadium April 24, Lambert didn’t know it would be his last performance. He still was focused on next year, designing and setting up next year’s production, “Find Your Yellow Brick Road.”
He wanted to show the marching band was “alive and well” after a rough year.
“I was preparing earnestly for the season,” Lambert said. “The entire schedule for the year was already made. Our paperwork is in for our competitions. I was working feverishly to make this an awesome year following COVID. But the opportunity that I have to grow my family business and have some personal growth was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Nauman, who will serve as one of the vice presidents of the Band Boosters Association, said Lambert is leaving the band on a high note.
“We know that it’s going to be tough this year without him there, but we also know that he has set us up for success this year and future years going forward," Nauman said. "The reputation of the program is going to attract a new director that’s going to be spectacular.”
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