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Band director's influence extends far
Mashburn WEB
John Mashburn is seen leading the Flash of Crimson Band during a 50th anniversary celebration for Forsyth Central High. The longtime band director is retiring. - photo by File photo

It would take more than a map and some graph paper to chart the reach of John Mashburn’s legacy.

Musicians and band teachers across the country have drawn inspiration from having Mashburn as their director.

But in Forsyth, he’s more than a supportive teacher — he’s become the father of band programs in the county.

Days away from retiring as Forsyth Central High School’s band director, Mashburn said he doesn’t plan on leaving the band family, just the paperwork.

“I’m going to become like the grandfather band director. I’ll get to play with the kids and then give them back,” he said. “So I’ll get all the fun and none of the responsibility.”

Mashburn has been teaching for 31 years, starting at high schools in Dalton and Moultrie, before landing at Central in 1993.

There were just 35 students in the program at the time — a far cry from the 160 currently in the Flash of Crimson Band.

Among the students during his nearly 20 years at Central was Scott McCloy.

“He was an inspiration,” McCloy said. “When I left high school, I had the question that most high school band people going to college have about whether they wanted to go into performance or education. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was because of him that I chose education.

“It wasn’t so much what he did, it was the way that he did it. The countless sacrifices he made for his students are unbelievable. He would always say, ‘If it costs me two hours of personal time to save 10 or 15 minutes of rehearsal time, it’s worth it.’”

McCloy didn’t just decide to become a band teacher, he came back to Forsyth County to work with Mashburn.

After graduating from college, McCloy became the band director at Liberty Middle School and worked with Mashburn’s band at his alma matter.

And when Lambert High opened in 2009, McCloy was asked to be the school’s inaugural band director.

“John was the first person I called when they offered me the position, to talk with him about if this is a good move,” McCloy said. “Even throughout my teaching career, he’s still been teaching me. He’s been my mentor.”

But the connections don’t end there. McCloy’s assistant band director at Lambert is Mashburn’s oldest daughter, Tonya.

While her father was also her band director, it never felt strange, she said.

“He’s the same dude. He’s a great teacher and a great father. And I think they both play off each other,” she said. “He’s great in both areas because it’s one in the same.

“I’m very lucky to have been his student and his first born. I definitely feel proud to be that person and especially seeing all the other lives that he’s touched.”

The Mashburn reach extends beyond her. John Mashburn’s brother Steve, who started as a band director at Otwell Middle School, is the coordinator of online education for the school system.

And when John Mashburn leaves Central, the Flash of Crimson Band will also say goodbye to his wife, Sue, who has been the director of the school’s color guard since the beginning.

Sue Mashburn will continue to teach, but is leaving Cumming Elementary for the new Kelly Mill Elementary opening in August.

John Mashburn’s influence is sprinkled throughout Forsyth County, but he said that’s just how it is with band teachers.

“I’ve got former students who are band directors who have former students that are band directors. So it’s like this family tree of band directors,” he said. “And I still stay in touch with my band directors from my past.”

In his retirement, Mashburn plans to work with Central, as well as other schools, doing consulting work and writing shows.

“I’m not going to miss getting up at 6 every morning,” he said. “The only things I’m going to miss are the things that I’m going to keep doing — seeing a child’s face light up when they’re finally able to perform a difficult passage, or they get the marching routine right and seeing their faces when they come off the field after doing a great performance or competition.

“Those are the things that can keep my fire going, and I plan to keep stoking that fire. I don’t want to give that up.”

He’s also looking forward to more free time for fishing and said he’s got a long ‘honey-do’ list.

He leaves behind countless awards and championships, as well as a bar set high for his assistant director and drum line director, Tom Tucker who will take over next year.

“Tom has been an integral part of everything that has gone on,” said Central Principal Rudy Hampton. “He has a very good rapport with the students, just like John does. And with the work he’s done with the drum line, I would expect the program to continue to thrive.”

McCloy said he’s not worried about Central’s future, thanks to advice he’s gotten from his former director.

“John would be the first person to tell you that the kids make the program. It’s truly the kids’ program,” McCloy said. “Our job as directors is to take the kids where they want to go. If they want to be successful and want to shoot for the stars, it’s our job to help them achieve that.

“John taught me a lot about what I have and my ability to give it to others. And all his students he’s had throughout his career, regardless of whether they’ve gone into music or not, have definitely given others that [advice] that John taught them.”

To John Mashburn, though, it’s just carrying on the family tradition.

“I’ve just been a limb on the tree,” he said. “The things that my band directors in high school taught me, I’m teaching them, and they’ll teach other students. And that’s the exciting and dynamic part about what we do.

“Band directors, like very few teachers, we get to see and teach the kids over a four-year span. We have the opportunity to really get to know these students and get to know their families and create quite close bonds that often last a lifetime.”