We don't have to please a crowd, just God
In more than 20 years with the newspaper, I must have conducted hundreds of interviews. Last week, I wound up being the person interviewed, but the subject was one I was proud to talk about. The interview focused on Paul Semicek, forever known to hundreds of the former members of the Mount Carmel Area High School Mounties as "Prof."
Many years ago, scholastic band directors were often called "professor." However, "Prof" suited Semicek because he was an innovator who, in his two decades with the Mounties, made the band, with color guard and choreography unit, a visually and musically appealing crowd-pleaser.
The interview as one of more than a dozen former Mounties was part of a documentary being made by the wife of a Mounties alumnus. One of the questions was how would I sum up "Prof" in a word or two. It didn't take me long to answer - "showman."
Semicek created arrangements of music as far back as "Dixie" and "Rule Britannia" and as up to date as the current hits of the '60s and '70s. His shows were innovative, and he was not afraid to take an idea and run with it. The results included hip-wriggling drum majors, tiny tuba players and a "traffic jam" in the middle of the show.
In retrospect, "Prof" gave many young people the opportunity to go places they never would have gone with their families. In addition to parades, drum corps shows and appearances at amusement parks, the Mounties made an annual trip to Canada or New England and journeys south to Atlanta and even New Orleans to play at NFL games.
For some of the student musicians, the trips opened their eyes to where they wanted to go with their lives. For most, they were a collection of pleasant memories.
Often, we don't appreciate what people mean to us until many years later. Thinking about my eight years in the band, I recalled that Semicek always made sure students, chaperones and he could get to Mass if the band was on a trip over a weekend.
But I would have to admit two memories that impressed me most about "Prof" did not occur until many years after I graduated. I was surprised and grateful when he came to my dad's wake to express his sympathy to my two brothers and me as his former band members and to my mother as an ex-chaperone. More than a decade later, he repeated the kind gesture at my mom's wake.
In retrospect, "Prof's" faith is in contrast with the shows he created for the Mounties. It is not loud and showy to please big crowds; it is quiet and sincere to please God.
I should revise my capsule description of Semicek. "Prof" was a "showman" when it came to the Mounties; he has always been a "good man."
We don't have to please a crowd; just God.