It was 1974, and a band called Quest was playing a gig at a Ramada Inn in Hagerstown. Barry Enzman and his fellow 20-something band members were taking a break when opportunity knocked.
Gene Miller, then supervisor of music for Howard County schools, had come to hear the talented young saxophonist play, and was prepared to offer him a teaching contract on the spot. They chatted, but Enzman, who had just graduated from college, wanted to think more about it.
Now, after 41 years at Glenelg High School, the highly respected band director is retiring from his first and only teaching job.
“I took the job that summer because the band had broken up and I figured, ‘Why the heck not?’” says Enzman, who lives in Carroll County with his wife, Jodi, and daughter, Jessi, a high school junior who plays piano.
“But I really found my niche,” he says. “If Gene hadn’t come up to me, I’d probably be playing sax on the Brooklyn Bridge with my case open” for passers-by to toss in spare cash, he jokes.
To say Enzman ended up where he was meant to be strikes Miller, who left the county public school system in 1990 and is now retired, as a huge understatement.
“Replacing someone like Barry will be an awesome task. He is absolutely an institution,” he says. “I often joke with him that he should be the mayor of Glenelg.”
Melody and harmony
A state record may be the best tangible evidence of how successful Enzman’s tenure has been. At 39 consecutive years and counting, Glenelg has received the most across-the-board superior ratings of any Maryland high school at the annual band assessments by the Maryland Music Educators Association.
“This year was Barry’s last adjudication, and the kids were just brilliant,” says Miller, who remains one of Enzman’s biggest admirers 25 years later and still attends the juried performances each March. “We were all on our feet applauding and screaming and carrying on when they finished, and then Barry just jumped off the stage and out into the audience.”
Students, parents and alumni are finding it hard to believe the time is near when Enzman and the Glenelg band program will no longer be synonymous.
Chris Wolf, a 2005 graduate who is now principal trombonist in the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in Arizona, says Enzman influenced him by setting the bar high.
“He treated us like adults, and we rose to the occasion,” says Wolf, who has returned to hear the band perform and was pleased to be reminded how professional it sounds.
Laura Cole, who played the clarinet and graduated in 1993, says she became a band director because of Enzman.
“I don’t think you can have the longevity of success he’s had if you’re not demanding,” says Cole, who is in her 17th year at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, Va. “Watching him direct really lighted that fire for me.”
Enzman’s own early influences include the late James Thurmond, his favorite professor — and the person whose conducting style he emulated — at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., where he earned degrees in music performance and education.
And then there was his father, Paul Enzman, who played trumpet in the famed Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
“There was always music in the house,” he recalls of growing up in Reading, Pa. But he was only 16 when his father died, so he “never got to bounce ideas off him” as one professional to another.
Much of Enzman’s legacy will be his unrivaled ability to elevate his students’ musicality year after year to produce a quality sound no matter how the makeup of the bands change, say supporters of the marching, jazz and symphonic bands.
Jay Cincotta, whose son Kevin plays alto saxophone in the school’s jazz band, has started a Facebook page called Fans of Barry Enzman on behalf of the school’s band boosters to help circulate plans for “an awesome retirement bash.”
The Glenelg Marching Unit Boosters are encouraging supporters to attend a weekend of events this month to honor Enzman: June 12, adults-only party; June 13, community celebration and concert at GHS; and June 14, outdoor band concert at the Lakefront Summer Festival in downtown Columbia.
“Barry has touched so many people that within 24 hours [of starting the fan page] a couple hundred people had joined,” and that number has more than doubled since, Cincotta says. “He’s an awesome man who’s had a huge impact.”
Cindy Desrochers, whose four children have all studied under Enzman, appreciated his commitment to excellence and how he treated all students with respect.
“My older kids are sad for the youngest since he’s a freshman and won’t get more time with Barry,” she says. “It’s been a great ride.”
Enzman also started a school tradition in 2004 that’s become the pinnacle of the jazz band program, and he gets one last chance to be part of it in July — the 12-day trip to perform at world-renowned jazz festivals in France, Germany and Switzerland.
“This is very high-level stuff, and it’s thrilling for them,” he says of the students appearing at the same venues as the musical greats of the jazz world. “Travel is education, and the kids come back different.”
Daniel Ford, who graduated May 21 and will join the West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band this fall, says Enzman loved opportunities to hear and learn from other performers on the summer trips just as much as the students.
Bouncing in his seat as they watched Tower of Power during the 2013 European tour, the band director decided to sneak a small group of students backstage afterward to meet the famous soul band, Ford says.
They made it and took pictures with the musicians. A second attempt to meet the Supremes was blocked by a security guard, though, he says with a laugh.
“Mr. E was just as into it as we were,” says Ford, who appreciated the band director’s spontaneity and his ability as a teacher “to make you a better player without tearing anything down.”
Though Enzman doesn’t like tooting his own horn, he knows what he’s built over four decades.
“What really kept it fresh for me for 41 years was watching the students’ facial expressions after a great performance,” he says. “Digging the process also kept things fresh. If you live for the performances, but not for the journey, then you aren’t going to last.”
Perhaps his most visible accomplishment is still wearing his hair long at age 62, he jokes.
Enzman’s list of music-related goals for retirement is lengthy.
He plans to spend time in his basement studio getting his musical chops back up to his college level so he can perform more. He also wants to serve as a guest conductor, adjudicator and adjunct professor — and generally do whatever he wants.
“I’ve seen too many people retire when they’re beaten down and not able to go on to Act 2,” Enzman says. “I don’t think of this as my time to retire, but to re-fire. I want to see what’s out there and do some things on my own terms. And the beauty of it is there’s no timeline.”