Fifteen years ago, Andy Marchese's former students came from all parts of the country to march under the direction of their favorite band director one last time before he retired.
Photos were snapped, cards were delivered and alumni offered Marchese, affectionately known as "Coach" during his 37 years at Benet Academy, their heartfelt thanks and goodbyes.
"I actually think of him quite often," said Halerz, 33, who graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Music and married a fellow musician. "All of it is very fond."
Halerz and other alumni will be glad to know that the band director plays on.
At 87, Marchese goes with his wife to the gym three times a week, where he runs laps around the indoor track. He still teaches private trumpet lessons to about 15 students, many of whom need special tutoring because they recently got braces or had them removed — a musical challenge.
And to those who ask — and not until they do — Marchese still shares stories about playing trumpet alongside Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at some of the nation's hottest nightclubs.
Marchese was born in Pensacola, Fla., to a father who was a conductor. At age 8, Marchese's musical career was launched when his father gave him a beat-up trumpet. Though Marchese never had a formal lesson, he practiced incessantly with his father's guidance.
After a year and a half at Louisiana State University, World War II broke out and Marchese and friends decided to enlist. He became a sergeant in the Army and played in the Army Air Forces band.
After three years in the service, Marchese moved to Texas, where a well-known musician named Jack Teagarden was looking for someone to play first trumpet in his band.
Marchese got the job.
In the years that followed, Marchese saw much of the country through a bus window, playing in a different venue each night. After Teagarden's band dissolved in Hollywood, Marchese was invited to join another well-known musical group, the Frankie Masters Orchestra.
Marchese met his wife, Mary, during a Chicago performance. She was a Glen Ellyn girl who sang in the Holly Sisters group. The couple continued performing, but as they began their family, she encouraged her husband to go back to school.
They returned to the Chicago area, settling in Downers Grove.
"I got to know people in town and they were very nice to me," Marchese said. "I signed up for DePaul."
Marchese completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in music education, playing trumpet all the while. He was regularly hired to play at the Palmer House and Chez Paree, premier venues in the 1940s and '50s.
The gigs allowed him to play alongside Red Skelton, Tony Bennett and the Williams Brothers, to name a few.
Marchese was having so much fun that when the principal of St. Procopius Academy, a boarding school for young men in Lisle, called looking for a band instructor, Marchese was caught off guard.
"I didn't need another job. I didn't even think about another job," he laughed.