CATTARAUGUS - Douglas Wilder has taught the joyful art of making music for a total of thirty productive years. Luckily enough for Cattaraugus and Little Valley, he chose to stay close to home; thus children from both these neighboring communities became the beneficiaries of his talented teaching.
At the end of the present semester, Mr. Wilder embarks on a well-earned retirement, but he will be sorely missed by students, fellow faculty and countless residents.
Throughout his career, he has imparted his love of music, his sense of humor and his abiding quest for excellence to generations of young people.
As usually happens when CLVCS band instructor Doug Wilder and his students ‘go out to play,’ there are plenty of laughs for all. Here, Barbara Woodarek, Nutrition Coordinator for the Cattaraugus County Department of Aging, breaks up while presenting a certificate of appreciation to Wilder, in honor of his untiring efforts over the years to provide entertainment at the SWAN center. From left: Gayle Patterson, Manager of Cattaraugus SWAN, students Jacob Domes, Tyler Willibey, Patrick McGlew, and Brian Morton, (all trombone); Ms Woodarek; student Morgan Clark (French horn); Mr. Wilder (trombone, for the moment); students Burton Pincoski (tuba), and Thomas M. Vullo (drums).
In fact, at the end of his farewell concert December 15, it was touching to see many of those 'kids' stay long after the last note died away, to shake their former teacher's hand or give him a hug.
During the last two months of his teaching career, Wilder must have thought at times that he had somehow blundered into a marathon of catastrophes, starting with a bizarre series of events preceding the November concert.
While serving his regular stint as cafeteria monitor the day before that performance, he suddenly realized that one of the students was choking. Immediately he sprang into action, performing the Heimlich Maneuver (evidently flawlessly), thereby saving the girl's life.
Then, on the day of the concert, one of choral directors became ill. Wilder drove him to the hospital, then returned to school, where, in addition to performing his own duties as director of the senior high band, he also led the other teacher's chorus through its program. True to form, Wilder, himself, made no mention of either incident. It was the students who 'spilled the beans."'
In December, he conducted the senior band in his last school concert. However, he also assembled two instrumental groups to serenade several local organizations. One week, they entertained the Ladies' Civic League; the next they played Christmas selections for a packed house at the Senior Wellness and Nutrition center on South Street.
These were hardly unusual activities for Wilder and his students. Over the years, this indefatigable instructor has made a habit of taking his musicians 'out to play.' Usually, to give the kids a little added moral support (and let's face it--because he loves to play) he takes one of the parts himself. These mini-concerts succeed in brightening the day for others - at the same time helping the students grow in poise and polish, and even imparting a few of those social graces that are sometimes so elusive for teens - all of it, with a light touch and infectious grin.
Several of his band members came forward at the December concert to deliver personal tributes, as did Deputy Mayor/band-student dad, Patrick McGlew. Said one of the other students later, "We'd have all said something, if there was only time."
Wilder actually started his teaching career in Little Valley Central School in 1979. Seven years later, he moved up the road to Cattaraugus Central, and then, when the two schools merged, he found himself instructing students from both communities once again.
Thanks to the excellent musicianship instilled in CLVCS's young musicians by the school's outstanding music department, the district is regularly well-represented at All-County and All-State concerts.
For those who listen, music may be simply a relaxing addition to life, but for students attempting to master tempo, tone and technique, hours of effort and persistence are required. Somehow, Wilder has the knack of instilling respect for the work ethic, without losing the sheer delight of making music. Two small communities in Western New York will miss him greatly.