I've been saddened to read recent announcements of the passing of Mr. Ray Den Beste, who was our band and math teacher at Paonia High School during the late 1950s. Since my favorite subjects were band and math, he was always one of my favorite teachers.
About a third of all students were in the band, and most of those who weren't were in one of the boys, girls, or mixed choruses. There was always a good pep band to play the popular songs of the day during breaks in the action at all JV and varsity basketball games. Mr. Den Beste was, somehow, able to get band arrangements of all-time great songs like Rock Around the Clock, Tutti Fruiti, etc. through the school district. He was also able to make certain we always had a good contingent of the typical instruments like trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, trombones, baritones, sousaphones, drums, etc., complemented with some of those oddball instruments like oboes, French horns, flutes, base violins, tympanis, etc.
I understand that our old band room, located on the second floor of the current vo-tech building in Paonia, is now deemed unsafe for students, due to a lack of adequate fire escapes. I'm glad I had the opportunity to enjoy countless hours of music there while it was still safe.
The outstanding quality of the Paonia Music Department was validated when Mr. Den Beste was honored with the inclusion of PHS in the prestigious "First Chair of America" book, which recognized the top 100+/- bands in the United States, and also when he was eventually recognized as one of the top 10 high school band directors in the nation. We usually didn't cover the entire content of our math books during the course of the school year due to several reasons, but Mr. Den Beste must have taught us how to "study" and/or "apply" math concepts pretty well since, just from our small class of 46 graduates alone, we produced a thoracic surgeon, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a PhD of economics, a geophysical engineer, an IBM expert in digital recording, a school superintendent, a pilot, numerous teachers, farmers, miners, businessmen/women, policemen, etc.
I've looked at the Taylor Funeral Home website, and the recent picture posted there does not look much different from the Mr. Den Beste of 50 years ago — Nina must have taken real good care of him. The website announced that an informal sharing of memories will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 and that a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14, both at the Paonia Methodist Church.
My classmates and I have appreciated the positive influence you've had on our lives over these many years. Thanks, Mr. Den Beste.
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