by Betty Thompson
From 1973 to 1977, I was a member of the Liberty Central High School marching band. Our public school system was separated: the girls attended Liberty Attendance Center and the boys attended Liberty Central High School. The girls in the band were bussed to the boy’s school for the 6th period band class.
Band was one of my greatest accomplishments. I loved that class! It was literally made up of families. There were usually at least two or four members of the same family playing in that band. In my case, my sister, brother and first cousin were also in the band.
The band was also one of Liberty’s greatest accomplishments — due in full to one of the best directors ever born. He was so multi-talented he should have been playing at Carnegie Hall. Instead he belonged to us.
His name was Mr. Claude Harness. His motto was “I don’t want excuses, I want performance.” Believe me, performance was what he got.
He instilled in us to be the best band, and under his leadership we were. He was not only our director; he cared about us as his students.
Back in the day, I wasn’t as self-assured as I am now. I came from a strict family and I wasn’t allowed to do as I pleased or go where I pleased. The band gave me a chance to travel.
Mr. Harness knew I was quiet person who did what I should. He always made a list of children he wanted to sit at the front of the bus… those who got into trouble if they sat in the back when they thought he wasn’t looking.
Out of curiosity I looked at the list. My name was on it. I was surprised! I overheard someone say, “Why is her name on the list? Everyone knows she wouldn’t dare sit at the back of the bus.” That hurt my feelings a little. I remember replying, “I don’t have to look for a seat since I have been assigned one.”
Before we left for our trip, Mr. Harness called me into his office. He told me that he put my name on that list because I was a nice person and he knew that I didn’t want to sit where trouble could arise. He also told me I didn’t have to sit there; I could sit anywhere I wanted to. I thanked him and told him that I appreciated it because he was right.
If Mr. Harness reads this I would like to say *thanks* and I have thought of you often through the years. Your thoughtfulness inspired me to always be my true self — no matter what others may think.