August 21, 2017

Wellesley Middle School says goodbye to beloved band director

Mr. Henry Platt is retiring from his position of WMS Band Director after 28 years.

By Shannon Chaffers ’18, Opinions Editor

When most people ponder the vastness that is their future, they dream of making a difference in an area they are passionate about. This dream became a reality for Mr. Henry Platt, who influenced thousands of young students’ lives through his dedication to music education.

After 28 years of teaching at the middle school, esteemed Band Director Henry Platt will retire at the end of the year. He has decided to “pass the baton,” as he put it, to the next director of middle school bands.

Platt’s interest in music first began while taking guitar lessons as a kid. He then went on to study music at Tufts, New England Conservatory, and the Berklee College of Music. Platt was the band director at the high school before switching to the middle school and to a job that allowed him to spend more time with his family.

For Platt, teaching was an obvious choice, as it provided him with the chance to share his love of music with those just beginning to find their path. “Being that teacher of that thing you love the most is very much a rewarding experience,” he said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

One of Platt’s main influences while he studied music was Frank Battiste, his professor at New England Conservatory. “He influenced a lot of us,” Platt recalled, “He is one of the driving forces of the movement of bands in schools in America.”

Platt also decided to enter the world of teaching to remain a member of the band community. “In an ensemble, everybody’s focused on that one goal of making the music happen,” he said, adding, “It’s a family thing.”

While teaching his music and band classes, Platt mainly focused on teaching his students to foster “a love of music” and supplying them “with the skills to become successful musicians,” he said.

For Katherine Decker ’18, who will play first chair oboe in the wind ensemble next year, Platt provided the inspiration to continue music at the high school. “He always encouraged me to go further with my techniques and array of music I played,” she said.

Selena Zhang ’18, who will play first chair clarinet in the wind ensemble next year, appreciates the effort Platt brought to his class each day. “Mr. Platt holds so much enthusiasm for what he does, and it shines through every day in his teaching,” she said. “His passion motivated me to find a greater appreciation for music and helped me grow as a musician.”

Platt cherishes his ability to provide students with the cultural background of music they play and perform. “I think it’s important for young students to learn about as many aspects of musical culture as they can. You’re never going to really know what your musical path is until you’ve learned about all the different players,” he said.

Decker certainly gained a lot from Platt’s teaching. “I learned and got exposed to so many different types of band music, from show tunes to more sophisticated pieces, through what he had the band play,” she said. “I definitely think it gave me a broader view of how pieces were composed and the different types of expression in music.”

One of the experiences Platt will treasure most during his last few weeks is the time he spends with his jazz bands, Monday and Tuesday, mornings and after school. One of Platt’s favorite memories was a trip to a jazz festival on the North Shore.

“We couldn’t believe how good we sounded,” Platt recalled. “It was one of those moments when everything clicked.”  He fondly remembers this day because of its spontaneity. “It’s one of those things about middle school kids, they’ll constantly surprise you,” Platt said.

On May 10, the Wellesley Performing Arts program honored Mr. Platt at the Jazz Band Step-Up concert, in which both the middle school and high school jazz bands participated. In addition to conducting the Monday and Tuesday jazz bands of the Middle School, Platt played guitar with the 1:00 Jazz Band of the high school and trombone with the 2:00 Jazz Band.

At the concert, Platt reminisced on the “bright moments” he has spent with his bands. He added, “the commitment at Wellesley warms my heart.”

After retiring from the middle school, Platt plans to remain involved in the Wellesley music community. He will continue conducting the Wellesley Town Band, in which members of Wellesley, young and old, come together to make music for the community. “Being the conductor of [this] group I started a couple years ago. It’s like doing the same thing [as conducting the middle school bands],” Platt said.

Platt’s gift of “making band a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience,” as Zhang put it, leaves the Wellesley band community facing a tough loss of an admired teacher.

Although in the early stages of his life, Platt did not believe he would become a music educator, he eventually found his passion. He will always be thankful for his chance to “to do what [I] love to do and also make the world a better place with it.”

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