- August 16, 2021
From the minute an instrument is placed in a student's hand, Ormond Beach Middle School Band Director Bill Guthrie knows they're both embarking on a journey.
It's a path to musicianship he's taken with each one of his students for about 25 years, the last 10 of which have been at OBMS. Teaching band is both fulfilling and frustrating, Guthrie said, and he loves it. The excitement comes in small victories: The student that learns to put an instrument together, or the one who finally can make a sound on a mouthpiece with a reed, or the student that learns how to play "Hot Cross Buns."
"You celebrate that," Guthrie said.
Guthrie puts his heart into his job, and now, the community is showing him just how much they appreciate him.
On Jan. 18, Guthrie was diagnosed with colon cancer. A GoFundMe to help him has, as of Friday, March 26, raised over $13,000.
"No matter how you refer to him, this man has affected your life for the better," the fundraising page states. "From being a friend, mentor, co-worker, family member, fraternity brother, teacher — now, he needs all of us to support him."
Guthrie said he began feeling sick in the fall of 2020. He initially thought it was a stomach bug, but it kept resurfacing as the weeks continued. Finally, in around early December, his symptoms worsened and he sought medical care.
Since his diagnosis in January, Guthrie has been battling cancer and while staying in the classroom as much as possible, according to the GoFundMe. On March 9, he had his surgery and was anticipating several weeks of recovery. He planned to be back with students by April 5.
Unfortunately, he suffered some complications and on Monday, March 22, had to undergo a second surgery. Still, Guthrie is planning to return to school in April, albeit a couple weeks or so later than his original plans.
His GoFundMe page is full of testimony of the impact he has made, and continues to make in music education.
"[Guthrie] inspires our kids through music everyday with his passion and humor," wrote Kelly Ann Markowitz on the page. "Even though it's been nearly 10 years since our son started in the OBMS band as a sixth grader, Sam's passion for music continues, and that's in no small part to Bill's influence. Sending you thoughts of healing, man. Everyone deserves a helping hand."
One former student said Guthrie was her first band teacher in middle school, and described him as an "an incredible man who loves his students and loves watching them grow as young musicians and young adults."
"He played a large role in my life during that time and after spending every day in his class for 3 years you start to form a bond that you don't share with any other teacher," wrote Mckayla Crotty. "I am hoping for nothing but a full and speedy recovery recovery for Mr. GU3 and I know he has ample amounts of support behind him."
Seeing the support he's received on the GoFundMe account has moved Guthrie.
“It’s really nice," Guthrie said. "You never think it’s going to be you, and then it’s you, and everybody shows up to help. So it makes it easier.”
A Volusia native, Guthrie got his start in music at the Holly Hill School. Primarily a saxophone player, he knew he wanted to be a musician, and by his senior year of high school at Mainland, was looking to major in music education at Stetson University.
His passion for music education has only grown throughout the years.
“It’s as important as reading, and it’s as important as language arts, and it’s as important as everything we do," he said. "It is the thing that makes us human.”
He has favorite moments in the classroom that he can recall throughout the years, but at the end of the day, Guthrie said it's the steps that keep him going.
“It’s never ever one moment," Guthrie said. "You want to remember all of the moments, and then suddenly you blink your eyes and that kid is playing real, honest-to-god literature in high school or in college. That’s what it is.”