The influence of Men

My early life was primarily influenced by two men. One was my father, Gene Orlin Dunn and the other was my band director, L.J. Hancock.


My father was a payroll supervisor at Fisher Body. He worked 60 plus hours a week while I was growing up. For a while he worked night shifts which meant that he had to sleep during the day. Dad was sleeping and/or at work during the week but, he was always at church with us on Sunday. We’d go out to eat after church, or maybe go for a drive. I didn’t see Dad much, but his example taught me to work hard and give till it hurts. This was a perfect set up for the next phase of my life.

LJ and music

I started playing trumpet when I was in elementary school. My first lesson was with an intense man with a full mustache named L.J. Hancock. This guy scared me! My Dad come through (as he always did) and purchased a used trumpet for me to play. (I still have it.) I showed some promise and continued to have weekly lessons with this scary dude.

After elementary school I had a few other directors and Mr. Hancock fell out of the picture for the most part. The next time I saw the man was at one of our 9th grade concerts. Mr. Hancock was in the band room talking to our director. I was excited to see him again but was disappointed when I realized he didn’t recognize me. Looking back, it’s obvious that I was already trying to gain his approval. This feeling would only grow in intensity.

High school band

10th grade meant high school and Mr. Hancock was back to being my director. I was part of the prestigious Norwin Band. The band was a successful and well known marching band. Moving and playing with accuracy and precision meant long and intense rehearsals. This was where Mr. Hancock excelled and it is where his influence was the most profound.

I remember practicing on the night before the first day of school. (We practiced all summer.) We were not doing something up to LJ’s (Mr. Hancock’s) standards and he was furious. He kept making us repeat the section. “Set it up again”. At one point we realized that the rehearsal time was over, but he kept telling us to set it up again. Nobody was going to tell him time was up! Finally his voice booms something to the effect that he didn’t care if tomorrow was the first day of school, we were going to do this right! And? We got it on the next run through.

Working with LJ was like that. We have standards and you are required to meet them. For some reason this resonated with me. And, the effect on a developing teenager was profound.


I was an average trumpet player but I was pretty good at the marching part of band. Jack Ratica was our marching instructor. He also sported a mustache and wore flip flops to practice. He was a giant of a man with a great sense of humor. I hung on his every word.

One day he (Jack) was teaching a certain type of direction change and said, “You should be able to drop a dime on the ground and rotate around the dime.” I went home, got a dime and went out on our wood-stained sun deck. Mom, hearing some thumping, looked out of the window and there I was practicing that turn. (I ended up wearing off the wood stain in a doughnut shape.) I would also get my Maynard Ferguson tape, put it in my boom box and mark time in the swimming pool. That built up my leg strength for high mark time.


When I started competing with the band, my Dad and Mom came to every competition. In my senior year Dad was the band booster president. He sold band hoagies at work, ran booster meetings and volunteered to work at events. He was all in!

There are too many stories to tell here about marching band. Many of those stories will be subjects of future posts. I’ll wrap this up by saying that we ended up winning the National Championship in my senior year. The positive stain on my soul from that experience will never wear off. These men applied the strength of their influence into my life and taught me to work hard, be consistent and do your part well! People around you are expecting you to come through. Be “All in” it pays off! You might become the best!

9 responses to “The influence of Men”

  1. I love that you had a great father and mother who supported you and a director who told you to strive for excellence. Our son, Alex, also had a band director in high school who was a former military man and he demanded the best from the band students.

  2. Eric, your parents really supported you throughout your life. Your band director was doing his best to instill greatness in you. Our son, Alex, also had a very focused band leader during his high school years and the band won many awards.

  3. Hi Eric. I really enjoyed reading about your dad and your band director. I can honestly say that as a band parent I appreciated your pursuit for perfection and YOUR work ethic. Those years, and especially the year I had the great opportunity to be the Color Guard Sponsor, we’re really the best of my parenting years. I appreciated someone who was a positive role model with integrity and love for the Lord. Joe was blessed to have that. Nick did not have that. There was a big difference in their love for school. You were a positive influence and every student -and parent – worked hard for your approval. Students who have you as a mentor are blessed. Thank you

    • Hey Kathy!
      Thank you for coming over and reading this blog post. We had a great year in 2007 with that band and your attention to detail with the colorguard helped make it great. Thank you for your kind words and consistent support!
      Be well!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *