A doctor, a teacher, a Buddy
His last Orchestra concert. His last homecoming football game performance. His last Marching Band competition. Thinking about the â€ślastsâ€ť has never been easy, especially for retiring Band and Orchestra director Buddy Clements. After 33 years, not only has the long chain of school award tagsâ€”both silly and honorableâ€”under his Golden Mustang plaque reached the floor of his office, but also thousands of students passing through the band room doors have been impacted by the music that Clements has brought into their lives.
When he first began working in the music department, he had a developing vision and a band class of 23 students huddled inside a regular classroom. Leading the growth of the program, Clements, along with co-director Corey Wicks, now manages over 240 Band students and over 160 Orchestra students throughout several periods. Years of experience, supportive staff and an undeterrable passion have elevated the music department to the prestige it claims today.
â€śWhen I look at where we started and I think of where it is now, I honestly think about all the students who built on them,â€ť Clements said. â€śI always tell our current students that theyâ€™re standing on the shoulders of the kids the year before them that took the program when they came in as a freshman. By the time they left as a senior, it was a stronger and a better program. Every year, we see that thereâ€™s been a steady improvement in the quality of our programs. The musicianship of kids at Walnut High School is just phenomenal.â€ť
Even before Clements invited Wicks to work with him, they were close family friends who played gigs together since Wicks was in high school. But after 21 years of co-directing, the pair describe themselves as brothers.
â€śI would say we are really good friends, but itâ€™s more than that. Weâ€™re more like brothers, and we know each other just as well as two people can know each other. And we know how to use his strengths and my strengths together. Weâ€™re able to be a lot more honest with each other than most other colleagues, and that makes it harder in some ways, but mostly better,â€ť Wicks said. â€śI donâ€™t think youâ€™ll find two people who work more effectively and closely than we do. We have a pretty unique relationship that you wonâ€™t hardly find anywhere else. And we always finish each othersâ€”â€ť
â€śâ€”sandwiches,â€ť Clements yelled from the room adjacent to Wicksâ€™.
In addition to a friend and working partner, Clements has been a teacher to Wicks. From teaching him basic director skills such as ensuring showmanship to showing him the mentoring abilities to connect with and motivate the students, Clements has helped prepare Wicks to educate the next generation of musicians.
â€śInitially, it was me helping to teach him and to train him, but because of our friendship and because of how we complement each other, it went beyond that,â€ť Clements said. â€śWe just know how to complement each other and we know when to do it and what not to. Thatâ€™s helped us a lot, I think that’s why we have a really strong music program.â€ť
A future career
Apart from the music program at Walnut, Clements ventured into another form of artâ€”acting. Since meeting his favorite actor, Clu Gulager, Clements has attended Gulagerâ€™s acting workshops and participated in infomercials, shorts, web series, pilots and student projects. In addition to having his own Internet Movie Database (IMDb) profile, Clements plans to pursue acting in his retirement in projects such as the zombie feature film â€śValentine DayZ.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not retiring to go into actingâ€”that wasnâ€™t the decisionâ€”but since I am retiring, I might as well pursue this. Itâ€™s been really fun because itâ€™s a whole other type of performing,â€ť Clements said. â€śIt took me awhile to get used to saying that Iâ€™m an actor. Itâ€™s still new to me and I want to make sure Iâ€™m worthy. I know I have a long way to go as an actor, but Iâ€™m enjoying the challenge and Iâ€™ve been picking up some parts.â€ť
In between his acting and composing, Clements plans to return to Walnut, whether that consists of helping out Wicks or visiting the school where he taught at for three decades.
â€śI love my job, and thereâ€™s never been a day I donâ€™t want to come to work. There has never been a day where I was sorry that I did this. We have this amazing music facility so I feel very thankful and very blessed and fortunate that I get to go and come here everyday. It doesn’t get any better than this,â€ť Clements said. â€śI hope Iâ€™ll get to come back and play or guest conduct or sweep the floors or whatever Mr. Wicks needs me to do. It might not be my last time on the stage at Walnut High School.â€ť
A legacy to remember
Receiving letters and gifts and having surprise celebrations in his honor, Clements has no shortage of those who are grateful for his contributions. And for someone who loves what he does, perhaps itâ€™s not about the â€ślasts,â€ť but rather, the start of something bigger and bolder for the music programs.
â€śIâ€™ve done a lot of music to feel that Iâ€™ve been successful as a performer, as a composer and as a music educator. Weâ€™ve always tried to have a vision to propel us and what we want to do for the music program,â€ť Clements said. â€śIt didnâ€™t ever seem like there was a good time, or a better time [to retire]. And what about those times when you feel like youâ€™re too old to do this anymore or when you just feel sick and tired of teenagers? I never have been like that, and I donâ€™t ever want to be like that. But I donâ€™t just see that happening because at this schoolâ€”itâ€™s the most miraculous thing that every year, every month, every day, thereâ€™s always something to look forward to.â€ť
By Kevin Arifin and Angela Cao, Arts editorsÂ
Photo by Kevin Arifin