Damon Presberry took the stage with the Havre de Grace High School band for the first time in more than 20 years Wednesday night, as he and other alumni helped HHS band director Richard Hauf celebrate his 25th year with the school.
Hauf and his fellow director, Jessica Lloyd, led the school’s student bands, orchestra, vocalists, percussion and jazz ensembles as they performed in “A Winter Concert,” the annual HHS holiday concert in the school auditorium.
Alumni typically perform during the annual concert. Hauf said later that about 20 usually return, but he estimated about 40 alumni attended this year.
“This is the biggest turnout of alumni,” Hauf told the audience. “It is absolutely one of my favorite Christmas presents.”
Presberry, 38, graduated from Havre de Grace in 1997 — his freshman year, 1993-1994, was also Hauf’s first year. Presberry was a percussionist in the school band, playing cymbals, bells and other “little parts.”
“It's good to see him still here, and he's well-loved by a lot of people,” Presberry said of Hauf after the show. “He's doing a great job with the band.”
His 15-year-old daughter, sophomore Breiana Presberry, plays flute in the marching band.
Havre de Grace alumni were invited to perform with the students throughout the show. Damon Presberry was part of the largest group of graduates who crowded onto the stage for the final number, “Christmas Festival,” a medley of Christmas songs.
Hauf called Presberry out by name in the audience after other alums joined the student musicians. He encouraged the reluctant Presberry to come down.
He acquiesced and joined his daughter on-stage.
“It’s good to have a second generation up there,” Presberry said.
Breiana said she loves Hauf, that she feels “closer to him than other students.”
Breiana and her fellow Warrior Pride Marching Band members have a performance season that runs from July through December. They appear in community Independence Day parades, Christmas parades, HHS football games, including the Warriors’ past three playoff appearances, and school concerts, according to Hauf and Presberry.
The marching band also traveled to New York City in November to perform in this year’s Veterans Day parade — it was their second time, as they had been in the parade in 2013.
This year, the musicians wore white armbands bearing the name of a relative who is a veteran or active-duty service member, and they wore those same bands Wednesday.
The students performed a medley of military songs while wearing their armbands, and audience members who are veterans or active duty were invited to stand when they heard the official songs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
“I like going to places to perform for other people,” Breiana, whose armband bore the name of her grandfather, Navy veteran Leonard Presberry, said.
Hauf lauded band members for their commitment and hard work, as well as their parents, who serve as chaperones or handle matters such as transportation and uniforms.
Hauf praised the students for how well they represented their program, school and community during the Veterans Day parade.
“They just did a masterful job,” he said.
Hauf said he is planning a trip for the marching band to Orlando, Fla., for March 2019.
He noted his commitment to the band means he has to spend time away from his family. The 47-year-old Hauf is married with four children. One son graduated from HHS in June, and his two younger sons are in the ninth and 11th grades at Havre de Grace. His youngest child, also a son, is in kindergarten at Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace.
Hauf thanked his wife of 21 years, Celeste, for her support, generosity, love and patience.
“I can't believe I found someone to love me that much, so selflessly,” he said.
Hauf was honored, in turn, by his students.
“Thank you so much for all that you do, Mr. Hauf,” senior Katie Klisavage, the band president, said. “We can't thank you enough.”
Hauf, who lives in Havre de Grace, grew up in Baltimore County and is a graduate of Catonsville High School and Towson University, where he studied music education. He was hired at Havre de Grace High School after college at age 22, and has spent his entire teaching career at HHS.
He worked with well-respected HHS educators such as Don Osman, who is retired, and the late Richard Holly, both of whom he said encouraged him to become part of Havre de Grace.
“’Be part of the community, raise your family here,’ [that’s] the best advice I ever had,” Hauf said.
Hauf said he hopes to retire from HHS, “God willing,” and he “cannot wait” to see the opening of the Havre de Grace Middle/High replacement school in about three years.
The Harford County Board of Education approved architectural and construction contracts worth more than $81 million earlier this month for the new building, which will replace the aging HHS and Havre de Grace Middle School.
Construction on the hybrid school is scheduled to start in the spring, and the building is expected to be ready by 2020.
“As a teacher and as a dad, I'm very excited,” Hauf said.
Hauf said about 250 HHS students participate in either band, chorus or orchestra. That’s more than 32 percent of the enrollment, which stands at 775 students, according to the Harford County Public Schools website.
“That’s a credit to this town,” Hauf said. “This town appreciates the arts.”