Retiring band professors end on high note
Vance Shoemaker’s Tuesdays and Thursdays begin around 4:15 a.m. After getting dressed and eating breakfast, he drives an hour from his farm in Iowa to campus, arriving before 6:30. He then dedicates his day to his students.
Shoemaker is about to change his tune—at the end of the academic year, he will retire.
“A person can tell when it’s time to retire,” Shoemaker said. “It’ll be nice to sleep in and relax.”
Shoemaker’s hit more than a few high notes in his career. An adjunct trombone professor and director of the trombone choir, he has taught at Augustana for 33-and-a-half years. He also teaches part-time at two other colleges, performs with the Sioux City Symphony and is the founder of the Siouxland Trombone Festival.
“The biggest challenge is to not show favoritism,” Shoemaker said. “I give 120 percent to everyone.”
Sophomore music major and trombonist Jacob Fenner has lessons with Shoemaker at 7 a.m.
“His teaching is so in-depth, and he has more experience in what he does than anyone else,” Fenner said. “He’s so caring, and it’s apparent. I know a lot of people who came to Augie only because of Vance.”
Fenner was one of those students. During his junior year of high school, he began taking lessons from Shoemaker.
“I improved as a musician immensely because of him,” Fenner said. “He’s the most influential person in my life.”
Bruce Ammann joined Augustana’s faculty four years after Shoemaker.
“We really hit it off,” Shoemaker said. “We agreed on educational philosophy, and we started a trombone ensemble. He’s a team player and enhanced the band program.”
Ammann will be joining Shoemaker in retirement this year.
Ammann was the former director of bands for 24 years and has taught at Augustana for 28 years total, serving as the music department chairman for six years. He led the Augustana Band on four international tours: three in Asia and one in Egypt.
“He’s like a fatherly figure to students,” senior music education major Ellie Kenkel said. “He’s a good role model on what it means to be a music educator.”
Ammann believes it’s a two-way street when it comes to being a role model.
“[The students] have inspired me as much, or more, than I have inspired them,” he said.
Neither of the professors are one to toot his own horn.
“Since 1989 until [April 20] the highlight of my career at Augustana has been every time I step before a student ensemble in rehearsal, performance or in private lessons, to make music,” Ammann said.
Augustana hosted the “All American” concert April 20. The event featured the Augustana Band and the Blue and Gold Band, which was founded by Ammann in 1989 .
After the last song, approximately three dozen of Ammann’s alumni from all over the country surprised him onstage.
“Having past students fill the stage to perform one more time under my direction was an event that I will remember the rest of my life,” Ammann said.
The song isn’t over yet. Despite Ammann’s moving to Arizona and Shoemaker returning to his Iowa farmhouse, both professors intend to stay involved in music.
The Trombone Choir will be directed by Shoemaker one last time Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Kresge Recital Hall. The concert will feature dozens of Shoemaker’s trombone alumni.
“He made such an impact on others that they drop what they are doing and go to Sioux Falls for him,” Fenner said.