- November 27, 2019
John Schindler, the new director of bands at Lakewood Ranch High School, stood alongside the clarinet section while the Marching Mustangs practiced fundamentals.
Schindler was soaking in information as he observed how the section leaders guided their respective sections as they practiced music for this year’s show.
Every so often, he would walk over to a drum major to ask a question or two.
The practice July 20 was an opportunity for Schindler to observe how the band works during rehearsal. He also saw the band's traditions and how section leaders have been trained.
On July 27, Schindler takes over, replacing Ron Lambert who spent 15 years at Lakewood Ranch High School.
“It’s my turn to learn about what they know and what they do with this program,” Schindler said. “It’s about learning about all those things so that way I can keep this band in a comfortable and safe place that they know. That way they know I’m not going to radically come in and change everything.”
With years of experience performing with or leading competitive marching bands, Schindler is excited to be leading a band that has placed in the top five in the 4A Class at the Florida Marching Band Championships 12 times in the past 16 years.
“I’ve worked my way up to get to this point, and I feel like for me, it’s not only a big step for me, but I want to find my landing spot for a long time,” Schindler said. “I feel like with the directors who have come before me and their long tenures, in a perfect world, I want to be that next person who is here for the long term.”
Ben Rosasco, a rising senior and drum major, hopes Schindler has a desire to hit the ground running so the band can see a win at the state competition this year.
“We decided as drum majors that right out the gate we were going to take this year super seriously because we missed being able to go out and have a full successful season last year,” Rosasco said.
In addition to high expectation, rising seniors and drum majors Lana DiBiase and Maya Lander want the band to continue its traditions and family atmosphere that’s been cultivated over the years.
“I want him to have the same effort and the same attitude as us,” DiBiase said. “We get hyped up on competition days or before half time performances.”
Besides the band having success on the field, Schindler’s goal is to develop strong relationships with his students so they feel comfortable talking to him about anything. He also wants to see all his students graduate high school, even if it means having to check in with a student every day until graduation.
Schindler recalled a senior he had in his band years ago who was on the leadership team but barely was above the grade point average needed to be a member of the band. About halfway through his senior year, the senior confided in Schindler that he might not graduate.
“I said, ‘That’s not an option, you have to make sure these last few quarters you do everything you can,’” Schindler said. “It almost became a daily thing. We eventually got him on a plan so that he was successful. We saw those grades start going up through the third and fourth quarter. Even up until final exams, I was going, ‘Tell me where you’re at.’”
Schindler saw the student walk across the stage at graduation and receive his diploma.
“Getting to congratulate him at the end was an amazing feeling,” Schindler said. “We’re just trying to get the kids to give themselves an opportunity for the future so they can go on to do something they want to do.”
Schindler decided to apply to become the director of bands at Lakewood Ranch High because he missed being a part of a competitive marching band program. When he was in high school in Ohio, he competed with a competitive marching band.
“Those experiences have shaped me for who I am today, like learning how to be responsible at that age, learning how to work hard and learning how to be a part of a team,” Schindler said. “That was something I’ve taken with me for my entire life.”
Schindler knows how big of an impact a band program can have on students.
“The memories I remember now (from high school) are the people I spent time with,” Schindler said. “I always tell my students, ‘You’re always going to remember the people you’re around most. You’re not going to always remember the superior ratings. Those are great, don’t get me wrong, and we strive for those things, but it’s the experience.’”
Besides marching band, Schindler would like to ensure the entirety of the school’s band programs — which also includes wind ensemble, wind symphony and jazz band — are well rounded.
“I call it excellence in everything we do,” Schindler said. “We want to have a high standard for every ensemble and that transfers throughout the entire school year.”
Although the change in directors comes with uncertainty on how the season will progress, band members are hopeful for a positive outcome.
“My first thought when I found out there was going to be a new director was negative emotions, but this could be a great opportunity to change in a good way,” Lander said. “I’m excited for (Schindler) to take on the job and see what he can do.”