A tribute to a man of music. 

June 20, 2022

A tribute to a man of music. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — On Friday, several hundred people gathered to celebrate the life of a true man of music. Tom Thomas, 64, died on May 2, 2022. He served as Mason County Central band director for 22 years, making him the longest serving band director in the district’s history. 

Tom loved music and inspired others to love music. Friday’s celebration was appropriately held at the Scottville Clown Band Shell and featured various musical acts that Tom was involved with. The most telling observation came from Rev. Alan Stringer, Tom’s pastor and friend from Missouri who spoke of Tom’s faith as a Christian and his ability to spread the Gospel by just being who he was. Tom’s testimony to his faith was clear by the hundreds gathered on the Charles Thompson Memorial Green at the band shell, a mix of people of various levels of ages, beliefs, society, and politics. All people who have been touched by Tom Thomas and his love of music. 

These included Tom’s family members, many work colleagues – including the entire MCC school administration, several present and past board of education members, current and retired teachers (including Tom’s band director predecessors), educators from other school districts, several former students, fellow musicians, and many others who just loved Tom Thomas. 

The event started with military honors from the Custer VFW and Ludington American Legion (Tom was a veteran of the U.S. Army), then an invocation from Rev. Norm Letsinger, who was one of the MCC board of education members who hired Tom 22 years ago. Members of the cast of “Rent”, that was presented 10 years ago at the Ludington Area Center of the Arts, reunited and sang “Seasons of Love” (Tom was musical director of the musical); the MCC High School band then performed “Celtic Air & Dance No. 2” under the directional debut of newly hired MCC band director Caleb Schultz. Rev. Stringer spoke about his friend and his faith then April Keith, MCC elementary music teacher, sang “We’ll Meet Again” for her friend and colleague. April was accompanied by Becky Sopha on piano, who served as choir director at Ludington Area Schools when Tom was a band director there and later as a fellow musical director at West Shore Community College, along with several other endeavors over the years. The Salt City Dixie Band of Manistee, another band Tom belonged to, performed “Bill Bailey” while former students Ana McCallum and Katelyn Allen sang “For Good” (again accompanied by Becky Sopha). Members of the Community Band performed “The Theme of the Pink Panther”, a song that Tom couldn’t stand! Tom, as director of the band, always wanted to get rid of the song but was outvoted by the musicians. Tom’s sons, Andy and Josh, and his wife, Donna, thought it would be fitting to have a little fun with Tom who would have found it funny. The MCC Jazz Band, again under the direction of new director Caleb Schultz, performed “Bird Land.”

Dr. Rick Plummer, who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration — again, a colleague of Tom’s when he was a band director at WSCC — and myself, introduced the Tom Thomas Memorial Fund through the MCC Educational Foundation. The fund will assist MCC band students who cannot afford to pay for their instruments (donations may be sent to MCC Educational Foundation, Tom Thomas Fund, 300 W. Broadway Ave., Scottville, MI 49454). 

The event ended, as it should, with members of the Scottville Clown Band paying tribute with “Basin Street Blues” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” 

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