Former students honor IkardPublished 6:05am Wednesday, October 3, 2012
As Curtis Ikard greeted person after person at a reception held in his honor on Saturday, he found it hard to hold back the emotion he felt as the flood of memories from 30 years of teaching came flooding back to his memory.
Ikard, who was the show choir director and the band director for the Russellville High School Marching Hundred from 1957 until 1987, said he couldn’t believe the number of former students and friends who came back to show their appreciation for the lessons, both in music and in life, he had taught them during his tenure at RHS.
“It was such a tremendous experience for me,” Ikard said. “I just couldn’t believe the number of people who showed up, and the ones who couldn’t make it but sent flowers or cards or messages.
“When I got home Saturday evening, I was so high I didn’t know if I would ever wind down. It was just like winning a competition.
“Sunday I sat down to look at messages on Facebook and some of the things people had said. I didn’t think I was always the easiest fellow to live with, so it was very emotional to see so many of my students that evening and then to hear the nice things they had to say about me. There are hardly words to explain it.”
Trent Stephenson, one of Ikard’s former students and one of the organizers of the event, said he couldn’t have imagined the evening turning out any better.
“I was so proud that so many people came out to the reception,” Stephenson said. “There were at least 200 people in the high school cafeteria to see Mr. Ikard.
“We had a lot of local people, but we had a good bit of out-of-town people there, too. We even had former students who travelled all the way from New York City, Michigan and Kentucky just to be here.
“To me, that’s just a testament to the kind of impact Mr. Ikard had on his students. He taught us so much and we’re so appreciative of all he did.”
Ikard said knowing that some students had travelled great distances just to honor him was unfathomable.
“To know that people care about you that much is just humbling,” he said.
Renee Riner McCurry is the former student who travelled from her home in New York City to honor Ikard’s legacy.
McCurry, who was in the band her senior year in 1978, said she wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
“It was important that I be at Mr. Ikard’s reception to thank him one more time for what he did for me when I was 16 years old,” McCurry said.
“I wasn’t elected cheerleader my senior year and I was absolutely devastated and shocked and my heart was just shattered.
“After many tears were shed, I received a phone call from Mr. Curtis Ikard asking me to join The Marching Hundred band. Of course, I cried again, but this time it was tears of joy.
“At 16 years old, when something is taken from you like it was me, there’s a fine line of which way my life would have turned out at that time. However, with one phone call from Mr. Ikard, my confidence level started to climb back up and my self-esteem was on the rise again because Mr. Ikard wanted me in his band.”
McCurry said she began learning to play the tenor saxophone but was able to join the rifle line when one of the girls had to transfer to another school.
“Of course, the first time I threw that rifle up in the air, it came down and the first place it landed was on my face,” McCurry joked.
“I marched my first game with a black eye covered quite deeply with make up, but I did it because I remember a saying that Mr. Ikard would say over and over and over: ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win.’
“Mr. Ikard taught me to stand tall and hold my head up high, be proud of who I am and never quit. Regardless of how others treat you, you must have perseverance.
“Mr. Ikard was hard on us, but it’s because he would accept nothing but the best from his students, and I will forever be grateful to Mr. Curtis Ikard.”
Stephenson said stories like McCurry’s were not uncommon because Ikard had an impact on many of his students’ lives, such as his own.
“Mr. Ikard was just like a father to me,” Stephenson said.
“He instilled in me professionalism, determination and the desire to always strive to be the best that I could be – and I think he instilled those things in everyone he taught.
“During the planning for this event, I’ve had so many people tell me that the way the conduct themselves today is because of what Mr. Ikard taught them. He has students who are scattered all over the nation and they all carry these values with them today and respect him for who he is and the legacy he left.”
At one point during the evening, Stephenson and former student Tinker Malone escorted Ikard and his wife, Sylvia, to the Fine Arts Building so he could see the new band and show choir facilities.
They also took him to the top of the RHS Stadium so he could watch the Marching Hundred during their exhibition performance at the Tri-State Kudzu Klassic Marching Festival, which is hosted by the RHS Marching Hundred and took place the same day as the reception.
“It was great to see the new band room and show choir room and then to watch the Marching Hundred perform,” he said. “Russellville was just ‘wow.’ I was so proud of them and proud of the program.”
During the awards ceremony of the Kudzu Klassic, Ikard presented the best overall band of the competition with the new “Curtis Ikard Challenge Cup,” which is an award that will be given in honor of Ikard at each competition from here forward.
As he was being honored on the field, the large crowd of bands and spectators stood on their feet to give him a standing ovation.
“This whole evening was just an amazing experience from start to finish,” he said. “It was humbling, exciting, emotional and just tremendous.
“I can’t thank the people who organized this event enough for what they did. Trent and his wife, Michelle, Shannon O’Neal, Kim Stanley Clonts, Donna Bolton, and so many others. I don’t think they missed a thing when planning for this evening. They even had a megaphone like the one I used to use that people signed as they came into the reception.
“This evening brought back so many memories for me and so many special times. It’s something I’ll never forget.”