Band Director Rod Miller says ‘Farewell’ at Sousa Concert

May 18, 2022 | Around Ottawa County, Featured | 1 comment

BY JOHN SCHAFFNER

Rod Miller in full John Philip Sousa regalia. (Photo by John Schaffner)

The year was 2006 and Pat Adkins was just beginning his new assignment as superintendent of Port Clinton City Schools. He was faced with finding a new band director and music was not his forte.

So, he called in a local expert for help.

Earl Warnke was a legend in Port Clinton, having served as high school band director for decades. Adkins told him he needed to hire a new band director, and he needed to “get it right.”

At first, Warnke was uncomfortable giving that kind of advice. But after a little prodding, Warnke didn’t hesitate.

“Rod Miller’s your man,” said Warnke.

Miller had already made a name for himself as a student of the great band director John Phillip Sousa. He had been a four-year member of THE Ohio State University Marching Band as a tuba player. He dotted the “I” three times in the band’s iconic “Script Ohio” maneuver. He had developed great band programs at St. Henry, Perrysburg and Beechwood high schools. Adkins sought out Miller and offered him the position and he accepted. That was 16 years ago.

Miller and his family immediately adopted the community and the community adopted him. His students loved him, and the quality of the marching band at football games quickly had people in the community talking.

Miller carried on his personal dedication to the memory of John Phillip Sousa with his first “Sousa Concert,” where he becomes the character he honors by donning a “turn-of-the-century” uniform. He began growing a beard in January to assume the persona of Sousa.

The concerts quickly became a popular Port Clinton tradition.

Several months ago, Miller announced his retirement, and that made this year’s Sousa Concerts even more special. Miller’s Port Clinton High School, band is joined by numerous local and area musicians, including former Ohio State Marching Band Director, Jon Watters, who hails from Elmore and is presently director of bands at Heidelberg.

The Sousa Concert returned following a two-year absence due to Covid-19. The tradition of honoring veterans continued with a tribute to local Vietnam War vets.

John Phillip Sousa was known for his patriotism, and so is Rod Miller.

Two traditional features highlighted the end of the concert. First came the playing of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the playing of the PCHS Alma Mater while the seniors walk across the stage and leave their instruments on a table in front of the podium. Jon Watters directed the band during the playing of the Alma Mater.

Miller was fond of saying this about Sousa. “He is gone and there is no other”. Superintendent Pat Adkins said the same about Miller and his tenure as band director at Port Clinton High School.

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1 Comment

  1. Don Nathan

    Congratulations to Rod for a stellar career of impacting generations of young musicians! I’ve known Rod since he was a student in the bands at OSU. He was my student teacher when I was the band director at Reynoldsburg High School. The Sousa concert tradition started during those days and I’m so glad Rod kept it going. You already know what an amazing person he is. He is truly one of a kind and will be missed. That said, your new band director, Sean DeLong was also my student teacher, albeit many years later at Worthington Kilbourne High School. He is also a fantastic musician and teacher with a real passion for giving young musicians great experiences. He will be different, but I’m sure he will carry on some old traditions while establishing some new and exciting ones. Change is difficult, but if it is approached with an open mind it can be wonderful. Your community is blessed to have such great music educators in your schools, past, present, and future.

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