Morgan Kasel is a junior and this is her second year on the Wolfpack staff. The majority of her free time outside of school is spent playing soccer, reading, or watching her favorite professional team, Atlético Madrid. She loves writing about people's experiences in life, as well as creative short stories for fun. Although she doesn't know which college she wants to go to, she plans on studying journalism and creative writing, while traveling and playing soccer. She grew up in Colorado and moved to Texas before the start of sixth grade.
“A Tradition of Excellence”
Head Band Director Announces Retirement
March 6, 2020
Arms up, instruments set, deep breaths. After dedicating 22 years to the school and the band program, head band director Steve Wessels officially announced on Feb. 18 that he will be retiring at the end of the year.
Wessels’ legacy at Cedar Park began when he started teaching band in 1998. Six years later, in 2004, he became the head band director. Wessels said that while he has made some incredible memories as the band director, he enjoys focusing on the present and the experiences to come.
“Right now my favorite experience is engaging with people right in front of me,” Wessels said. “The present to me [is] everything. Of course, I have memories, I had my own kids that went through the program [that] was really cool.”
Wessels said that he believes the band will continue to be fun and successful, especially with Christopher Yee as the head director next year and assistant band director Kendall Stevenson working with him.
“For [the students], the future is going to be awesome,” Wessels said. “I see who’s taking over, Mr. Christopher Yee [and] Mrs. Stevenson. There are rock-star band directors here. Over my years of experience, I have always been very blessed to have great, smart people that I work with. They may be called assistant band directors, but they’ve always been associates, meaning we work together as a team [and] listen to each other.”
Through his years of teaching, Wessels said that he has always aimed to be a positive influence on his coworkers and students.
“The first thing I loved when I first got here in Leander was the ‘Ten Ethical Principles,'” Wessels said. “I wanted to know that, every night when I laid my head on the pillow, that I’d do the right thing for the students, for myself [and for] other people. ‘Did you do all that you could do?’ That was always a challenge for me. As a person, I just wanted to know that I did the right thing and that I did all that I could do.”
Wessels said that while he does not have any definite plans for after he retires, he hopes to spend more time with his family and continue teaching music through clinics, as well as invest time into his hobbies.
“I’ll cook, I’ve always liked to cook,” Wessels said. “I love being outside. I’m going to do a lot of volunteer work [and] I want to get more involved with the church. The list is endless.”
Algebra teacher Joanna Pangilinan has two children who have been part of the band program with Wessels as the head band director. She said that while she is definitely disappointed to see him go, she hopes that Wessels enjoys the next chapter in his life.
“[I felt] sad,” Pangilinan said. “My son Jude will be a senior next year and he will miss out with Mr. Wessels, but he’s already had his last state year with [him]. I’m so excited for him to enjoy his retirement, he deserves it.”
In the years that Pangilinan has known Wessels, she said that the band program has been very successful. According to Pangilinan, while there have been a few different band directors over the last six years, Wessels has always been a strong foundation for the band.
“We’ve won those three state championships, and we’ve had different directors along the way,” Pangilinan said. “But the common denominator has been Mr. Wessels. He’s been here through all of them so that’s why I always say that he’s our secret weapon for winning state. But it’s so much more than what he does for the kids, marching and teaching them everything they know about music. It’s a deeper level with Mr. Wessels.”
According to junior Drill Instructor and flutist Lia Kim, Wessels has made a huge impact on the lives of his students and her personally. She said that while she was expecting the news, she was was also surprised to hear that he was retiring.
“Mr. Wessels is such an awesome person when you get to know him,” Kim said. “I eat lunch with him every day at the band director table. He’s really funny and I always feel like he’s a father figure to everyone in the band program.”
Along with his fun personality, Kim said that Wessels’ own experience and knowledge of music really helped the band and its members succeed.
“He’s a weird person, but he’s also really fun,” Kim said. “I think he makes band a little bit more interesting during the concert season. He is a musical genius. He can hear everything and it’s crazy how much experience he has and how much knowledge he has about music.”
Over the years, the band has won many competitions, including five state championships. Senior drum major Alyson Jia agrees with Pangilinan, as she also believes that Wessels is one of the main reasons behind the successful competitions.
“We call him our secret weapon,” Jia said. “He’s a pretty important part of the band. He helps a lot with the music and that’s why we sound the way that we sound. He’s a great teacher. He’s fun to be around. Personally, it’s sad to see him leave.”
Wessels has greatly impacted many students during their high school careers, according to junior social officer and percussionist Kenley Garner. She said that she was disappointed when she heard that he was retiring.
“I was sad [when I heard],” Garner said. “He’s done so much for the program and he’s such a cool guy. He’s really made a difference, not only in my musical career but also just in my life. He’s a great human and he’s really wise and a great leader. I was sad, but I’m also excited for him and this new chapter in his life.”
Garner said that Wessels has played a major part in the band program since the beginning, and he continued to successfully teach members throughout his entire career.
“He really took this program and helped build it from the ground up,” Garner said. “He, I think, played such a central part in the way the program works and he was very intentional in his decision making. [He] has continued such a tradition of excellence.”
Through his many years of directing and teaching, Garner said that Wessels has had a huge impact on every single current and past band member.
“[I want to] thank him for his dedication and his hard work these past twenty some odd years,” Garner said. “We really appreciate it. He will never know the impact he has made on so many lives for so many years. I think he should feel good about what he’s done and the impact he’s made.”