Wilhelm Brings 37 Years Of Experience To Band
Joe Wilhelm, McDonald County High School’s new band director, brings 37 years of experience to the table.
Wilhelm grew up in Sapulpa, Okla., where he started band in the fifth grade, playing trombone. He said he had great mentors in high school and junior high. His high school band director was George Bright, and he went with him to a University of Arkansas band camp his junior year. He loved it so much he decided to go to college there.
At the University of Arkansas, he played in the Razorback marching band, the Hog Wild pep band, the jazz ensemble, brass choir and orchestra. When he graduated, his college band director called him and said Grove, Okla., was looking for a band director. He got the job and taught there for
37 years. He retired from the state of Oklahoma.
Wilhelm met his wife Patsy in college. She is a first-grade teacher at Grove School District. The couple lives in
Grove and has three adult sons, Joseph, Jordan and Josh. All three of their sons graduated from the University of Arkansas with music degrees, but Joseph is the only one who teaches. He was Wilhelm’s assistant at Grove and took over the program there when his father left.
When Wilhem retired, he was contacted to see if he would be interested in coming to McDonald County.
“And here I am,” he said. He was not quite ready to quit teaching when he retired.
“I felt like all my goals were completed at Grove. I wasn’t quite ready to hang up the baton, but I had been there long enough,” he said.
Ray Nimmo, a former assistant of Wilhelm’s from several years ago, also came out of retirement to work with him at McDonald County as his assistant.
Shortly after the band’s first performance at the first football game of the season, Wilhelm said he was very pleased. This year’s show is a Spanish show called Ritmos De Passion. The three pieces are called Los Cuervos, Havana Express and El Gato Triste.
“The kids have been very receptive and they work really hard,” he said.
Wilhelm goes each day to work with a different middle school band. He said he is trying to put a face on the high school band program.
Asked why he enjoys teaching, he said, “Passion of music, being with the kids. It keeps you young.”
He works at the University of Arkansas Summer Music Camp and hopes to offer some McDonald County students the chance to go, he said. He was on staff at the Oklahoma Ambassadors European Tour, a group of high school musicians that tours seven countries and performs in five.
“It’s really neat to see students travel to places they’ve only read or dreamed about,” he said.
He added he has seen that music is the international language.
The high school marching band will play at all home football games, Wilhelm said. There will be a Christmas concert at 6 p.m., Dec. 4, at the Performing Arts Center that will feature the junior high choir and junior high band, high school band and high school jazz band, he said.