At Alumni Band this year we added a new name to our collection of VHS Band directors. You would think that I mean Mr. Oshaben the new director, but you would be wrong, his name will be added next year after he graduates his first VHS senior class. Instead we learned that a couple of our Alumni band members pre-date the Bill Burt era of Vermilion. Before Bill took over the Vermilion bands, the Erie County school system had Jim Hoffman as it’s music director.
While I have very few people that I could question about Mr. Hoffman, I went to the source that offered his name, Bob Kyle (class of 1950), pictured on the right up top. I sent Bob and email and asked him to fill in the gaps that we were missing since I wanted to get the pages for our directors done in the next couple weeks. Bob said it would be a couple days, but he would get something written up for me that I could pick through and use. Now I’m going to be using parts of this for the Jim Hoffman bio page, but stripping out Bob’s voice and personal feeling I thought would be a disservice to the email that I received. Here is the email that Bob sent me with some very mild editing:
When I took “songflute” I was in the sixth grade and the school year was 1943-1944. (Songflute was the first instrument everyone was started on to see if they had any talent for music. Jimmy (James) Hoffman was music teacher at that time. Jim was also the instrumental music teacher for not only Vermilion School System (Vermilion had him as I recall two days per school week), but also the total of Erie County School systems, with the exception of Sandusky. The schools included were Vermilion, Berlin Heights, Huron, and Margaretta (Milan area).
During the time, he was teacher and bandleader for these schools (remember, the schools were not very large during the years when he was teacher) he had established what was called the “Erie County Band” which would play and march for any County function, such as “Memorial Day” Parades, etc. The Vermilion School Band did do maneuvers on the football field during halftime. But, we didn’t do the complex style which is accomplished presently. If my memory is correct, when Jim retired, Bill Burt succeeded him. This timing would be sometime in the mid-fifties.
I was in college until 1953, and then was drafted into the army, which I served in the 22nd Army Band in San Francisco, CA. When I came home in 1954, I went to Vermilion Schools to see my teachers, and especially Jimmy Hoffman. He was elated to see me and brought me up before his music class and said,”Now see if you study and practice hard, this is what you can do with your music.” I was embarassed, but felt good about it, also.
Later, after the army band, in the middle to late fifties, I played bass viol with Jimmy’s dance combo for weddings and such. I don’t remember when James Hoffman passed; it was probably sometime in the seventies. He was a good teacher and a wonderful personality. I don’t really know how he got around to all the Schools, but he made it.
I personally think this is a great story, and it has inspired me a bit to make sure over the next year to write up my own personal stories about the three VHS Band directors I did have some associtiation with, Bill Burt, Dave Henry, and Joe Price. The stories are what give things a personal touch, something that leads to our shared collective experience we had, and continue to have every year.
If you have a story about a director, a certain performance, or about your friends in Marching Band – feel free to e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will include them.