The teacher who had the most influence on my life in high school and beyond was Mr. Gentry, the choir director. Not only did he teach me a love of music, but he pushed me to be better than I would have otherwise been. I’m not exactly a natural when it comes to music, but it was his influence, prodding and mentoring that led me to actually do pretty well.
It was Mr. Gentry that worked with me and encouraged me to the point of being able to earn a spot in both the All-State Choir and the All-State Show Choir. It was Mr. Gentry who essentially assigned me to be the lead (Curly) in our school production of Oklahoma, which became the seminal event of my high school career.
So it was a no-brainer that when I found out he is retiring after this school year, that I attended his final “Feaste of Carols,” a 27-year tradition which has evolved into a spectacular evening. (see this article from the local paper about it)
And Mr. Gentry’s swan song was nothing short of inspiring.
While Mr. Gentry’s life doesn’t exactly follow the plot line of “Mr. Hollands Opus,” he has touched the lives of thousands of students over the last 30 years, and the impact of his influence is likely in the tens of thousands.
At the final “Feaste of Carols” all of the choir alumni in attendance joined the current choir to sing “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter. It was beautiful, and very emotional. To stand among dozens of people who were there to pay tribute to a great man was as powerful a moment as you could find.
Mr. Gentry, you may be retiring, but your influence will carry on for years to come.