Last night, I had the privilege of attending, and playing in, W.L. Whaley’s final performance as the Director of the Pomona High School Band at the Boettcher Concert Hall at the Denver Center for the Perfoming Arts. The concert began with a small brass ensemble of current students, alumni, and friends of Mr. Whaley performing “Fanfare for the Common Man.” That was followed by the combined Pomona Area elementary bands, and then by the Pomona Percussion Ensemble performing the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The Moore Middle School Band then performed selections from Pirates of the Caribbean under the direction of Ed Roush, who was the Pomona brass instructor when I was there. This was followed by the Pomona Orchestra’s incredible rendition of Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah under the direction of Mr. Whaley. The final number before intermission, Profination from Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony, was performed by the Pomona Symphonic Band.
During the numerous set changes, a number of dignitaries and families spoke about what Mr. Whaley had meant to them and to the community. Some of the speakers included: Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser; Arvada Mayor, Ken Fellman; Jeffco Public Schools Superintendant, Cindy Stevenson; and Pomona High School Principal, Dan Cohan. The Sanchez and Halgren families also spoke to the sense of family and community that Mr. Whaley had fostered among the band. The Halgrens have had at least one child in the band every year since 1992, spanning the final 17 years of Mr. Whaley’s tenure at Pomona.
Following intermission, Mr. Whaley directed the Pomona Symphonic Band and Combined Choirs in a truly incredible rendition of Carmina Burana. At the end of Carmina Burana, the audience of approximately 1800 gave the groups an extended, impromptu standing ovation.
At this point, I moved on stage with the rest of the alumni for the final number of the night. Following Dr. Lautzenheiser’s speech, Mr. Whaley took time to thank his family, the band boosters, all of his director friends who were playing in the concert, and all of the alumni who had returned. We then performed Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral for the final time under the direction of Mr. Whaley. The finale brought on three curtain calls for Mr. Whaley and a standing ovation that lasted for five or six minutes.
Following the concert, I caught up with a number of friends from high school and Jill Fellman, wife of Arvada Mayor, Ken Fellman, and my 7th grade algebra teacher. We then went over to the reception at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for the reception where we stayed for about 30 minutes before heading home.
The concert last night was a fitting end to Mr. Whaley’s tenure at Pomona High School. During his 20 years, his bands won 11 Colorado State Marching Championships, marched in 2 Tournament of Roses Parades, won 2 Winterguard International World Championships, and were a finalist at the Bands of America National Championships once. The concert last night was one of the finest musical performances I have witnessed in a long time, and was a fitting capstone to Mr. Whaley’s legacy of excellence at Pomona High School. The fact that so many of his director friends left their own bands, and that so many of the alumni came back for this one final concert speaks volumes about the values he instilled and the difference he made in all of our lives. He will undoubtedly be missed, but he will never be forgotten.