Enjoy photos and videos from Julie’s retirement party, Saturday, June 8, Sekera Auditorium
Julie Ewing’s Convocation Speech – Presented May 20, 2019
Recapping an incredible career of 36 years at John Bapst, 1982-2019
Good morning. It is unbelievable to me that it has been 36 years since I was hired to start the band
program here at John Bapst. You need to know that the passion for learning, tenacity to make dreams come
true, and great pride were already here. I am so excited to share the story of our beloved music and Fine
I grew up in Ellsworth during the ‘50s, starting piano lessons at age 7. By second grade I had trouble with
phonics. I became tenacious, working so much harder than my friends. It was a challenging time of life
for me, being tracked with the smart crowd and called out for my mistakes in writing, reading and
speaking. This is probably when my performance anxiety started. Even the notes on the page of music
moved, but I pushed through piano recitals until the end of high school. I was in love with the musical
sentences of Chopin and Debussy. Only when studying disabilities at USM did I realize my difficulties in
phonics, and all the moving black notes on the piano music, had a name: dyslexia.
My family was athletic. I started my high school years playing sports. My passion for equality between
music and sports developed the day the banter in the locker room was that the kids that loved music
would amount to nothing…no discipline. They were just playing around…certainly not as cool as jocks. That
very moment I became a fierce defender of the arts. I would not continue my plan to be a Phys. Ed.
teacher; instead, I would become an exceptional music teacher, using my tools of tenacity and passion for
equality; to bring the same honor and respect to musical teams that had always been given to the sports
I now share a little of my personal story to inspire you to make the most of your own personal
First Teaching Job
My first teaching job was for the Orrington School teaching K-8 music and building a band program. I
jumped right in, creating equal time for athletics and music. I backpacked with Woods, Water, and
Survival (now the Maine Studies Program) and even taught survival swimming (my best sport). After
establishing a strong band program for 4th-8th grades and writing curriculum for K-8 general music, I left
the program in 1980 for the impending birth of my first child.
Please Come to Bapst
The year was 1981, I was home with my delightful first baby, Nate. The phone rang…. “Hello?” “This is
Joe Sekera from John Bapst Memorial High School. I am calling to ask if you would be interested in
starting a band program for our school.” You see, a parent with students at both Bapst and Center Drive
School mentioned that I had been very successful in building the band program for Orrington and
suggested he should call me. Doing your best in all your endeavors will always serve you well.
My answer was “Thank you, but no. I am staying home with my son.” Being tenacious, Mr. Sekera called
again the next summer of 1982. “Come and start our band program, we made it part time so you can
also have time at home.” Done! I was in the best of both worlds.
To share these 36 years with you in 15 minutes… Burns even gave me an extra 5 minutes, even though
she glared me down. …well, it is impossible. So today’s story will only include the highlights of how we
spread spirit and pride wherever we could, and how the community of faculty, students and parents
made the Bapst magic happen. Congrats to the seniors for their spirit today!
The year, 1982: My first day at Bapst while rehearsing in Mr Carthy’s Room with the original 9 kids. I
knew I would have to be tenacious in recruiting more kids to fill out the sound of this musical team. If you
were singing, even humming in the hall, I recruited you. I also made sure the students knew it was cool
to join as a beginner… after all, we should all be lifelong learners. We had 20 members by the
Christmas Concert (including an additional 11 beginners). We even had a rock band. We spent that first
year learning “The Star Spangled Banner,” pep tunes, and the soon-to-be-written school song for the
winter basketball season. It is an absolute delight to play spirit music and see the crowd begin to smile,
tap their feet and even sing along, let alone be so proud of the band for creating amazing live music.
JOHN BAPST FIGHT SONG Our School Song
The request had come in from the coaches and administration: We need a school song to play for our
sports teams. Sports and music together… I was in. Per tradition, I chose the written music of the
college fight song,”On Wisconsin.” The cheering coach and I wrote the words to what is now our beloved
By now in my teaching career I asked for help whenever I needed it. It was time to find a jazz
Bapst needed a jazz musician directing stage band. There is only so much swing in this classically
trained pianist. Mr Mac had just performed for our student body and gave private drum lessons to a few
Bapst band members. There was no mistake he had that swing. Mr. Mac (Al McIntyre), said yes. It was perfect timing.
1984 came, Mr. Mac teaching jazz and me home at night with my 2nd
child, my beautiful daughter, Alexandra.
Finding Parents to Help
Next, I needed to find parents willing to help. I had found while teaching in Orrington that involving
parent help was a power tool and a blessing. Wanting to create the same for Bapst, I formed the JB Band
Boosters. Belonging gave the parents ownership and pride. It created the connective thread of
supporting an event together; remember, they came from 10-15 different towns. The Band Boosters’
spirit and energy became so strong they renamed themselves the Fine Arts Boosters with the wish of
helping with Visual Arts, Drama, Vocal as well as the Band. This past December, you felt their spirit and
pride when you attended their 28th Annual Craft Fair.
By now my title was Fine Arts Director (similar to Athletic Director). The numbers of students in the music program
had grown. Band was in the former cold lunch room, chorale in the former weight room, and jazz in the
former football washer/dryer room.
Student Leadership for the Band
Next, I needed leadership for the band. Sport team captains often made the winning difference. I
wanted that for the band. Band Council, a tool used by many band directors, was just the ticket. The
pride and energy of the officers and student section leaders was contagious. They welcomed freshman
to music camp, ran extra sectionals, taught new fingerings, wrote inspirational notes to their sections,
and collected food and money for Manna.
Musical spirit was alive and well on the football field and the basketball court. How could I spread
musical spirit to more of the Bapst Community? PEPPERS! We would take a small group of advanced
players and bring our musical spirit to the smaller athletic teams. Even golf! No worries, we played pep
tunes as they got off the bus and “The Star Spangled Banner” before the T-off, and packed up quietly.
The Biggest Social Event for Parents and Students Alike HOMECOMING. Probably my favorite.
The Homecoming pep rally, parade, and football game were already traditions when I arrived. Soon, the
band had gained strength in sound. They were ready to be on the stage welcoming the student body to
the pep rally, pumping them up with musical spirit. The homecoming parade from Bapst to Cameron
Field behind Cohen School was steeped with tradition. The football team led the parade in silence,
followed by the Cheerleaders, floats, cars. Liability removed the vehicles soon after I arrived. I suggested
to Mr. Mac that the chorale join the band in the parade and on the bleachers at the homecoming football
game. He was in. Balloons, singing of the school song, and lots of laughter filled the streets and
stadium on homecoming evening. On a cool fall evening, I still get goosebumps when our chorale sings
“The Star Spangled Banner” for the homecoming football game.
The themes for homecoming were randomly chosen by each class when I arrived. Jen Babcock, the cheering
coach, and I, the band director, created a change. Just one theme that could be used four different
ways, creating a much bigger connection between the classes.
Cheerleaders and Band working together
Babcock also suggested we pick pep music that the cheerleaders could dance to. Up until that time the
cheerleaders played their music from a boombox. Done.
The Fine Arts Boosters wanted to chime in on on this wonderful Bapst community event. They sponsored
the first tailgate party, and look at it now.
The final piece of energy for Homecoming was a suggestion from a student drummer. “Ewing, you know
the movie, Drum Line? We should have our own.” The half-time show became a great venue for these
Polishing and Publizing
We streamlined the movement of groups. Boosters and Band Council were helping everywhere . We
advertised, created TV spots, and Burns painted our wood marquee board for each concert. Our
message: spend an afternoon or evening being entertained by our five musical ensembles (teams). By
then we had so many kids we held an afternoon and an evening concert to be sure the parents could all
see and hear their students perform. The advanced ensembles of Jazz Band and Concert Choir filled the
stage. Band, Chorale and Chamber fit on the floor.
Gigs outside of Bapst
The advice “take as many gigs outside of school as possible” to help build the confidence and
numbers in your band added to my energy and spirit. We took a lot of gigs. The band rode a flatbed with
a generator for the bass guitar in parades for Monroe, Bangor, and Eddington. We played for political
rallies for Gore, Sr. and Jr. Bush, and even played for the exciting ice hockey games of the ‘90s when the
UMO Pep Band was on break.
Two Extraordinary Gigs
Two gigs added to Bapst’s History, both were in Washington, D.C.
First, the 1991 Greeting the Troops: We were invited by Bangor International Airport to be at the
terminal on March 1, 1991 at 7 a.m. to greet the very first troops arriving home for the Gulf War. We
created musical spirit for the crowd waiting to greet these troops, and honored the troops coming down
the international ramp with the five themes of the military branches. I heard the word “Stop.” The entire
terminal had gone silent… except for the sound of a tenor sax (borrowed from a Bapst Band member)
being played by a young army medic, Sgt. Tillman. He eyes were closed and he was playing our “Star
Spangled Banner” from the depth of his soul. This moment was so powerful that the local TV uploaded
this live news cast to the national stations. The entire nation saw this event on their morning news.
The next two months were full of Bapst Pride and Patriotic Pride
1991 Spring Concert
The Band played the “Armed Forces Salute” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Mac and I together
directed the combined Band and Chorus performing Mac’s arrangement of “An American Trilogy”
featuring Sgt. Tillman and our jazz drummer for the packed spring concert. This led to the invitation to play
in Washington DC on the 4th of July weekend.
Enjoy your visual trip with us on that July 4th and check out the parents that went with us.
Upon our return from this trip, the Fine Arts Boosters met with Mr. Sekera, requesting a part-time
secretary to help with the phone calls and paper work so Ewing could stay in rehearsals. We hired Fine Arts
Secretary, Mrs. Robb.
1997 Clinton’s Rally the day before Election
We were asked to provide musical spirit at Clinton’s rally hosted by the Bangor International Airport at
midnight before the next day’s election. Clinton, a sax player himself, invited the band members to the
tarmac to see Air Force One in person…and then Mac boldly asked, “Mr. President, when are you going
to invite us to the White House?” President Clinton said, “If I win the election tomorrow, I’ll invite to the
inauguration.” And that’s just what happened! We took 200+ kids mid-January while Bapst cancelled mid
terms for the entire school.
Needing Excellence in Art
As Fine Arts Director working with the administration, I interviewed many applicants applying for the open
Art Position. So many applicants meant I could choose the best….. Yep ….The Best…you know her and
love her, Burns, our very own Burns with a expertise in Art Education and a degree in Fine Arts with
much training in drama and vocal. (Have you ever heard her sing? Seriously… I hope you do.) And so
much humor. Too much? Never. The first spring musical sets she was in charge of took my breath
away. She had transformed the sets of wood that my husband had built, those flat pieces of plywood, into
the look and feel of real buildings. Together Burns and Mahar added many visual art classes and even few drama
classes. The Fine Arts Program was growing even stronger.
Solo and Ensemble Night
Being a pianist, recitals were a familiar performance venue. Creating a small recital performance venue
for the pianists at school, the beginners that were timid to perform and a venue for advanced musicians
to run their audition pieces, became the annual October Solo and Ensemble night.
Chamber became the ensemble for the talented string/woodwind players now attending Bapst. Using the
repertoire book of standards that I complied, they were able to take a variety of gigs that included
weddings. My favorite was helping the cheerleaders sing and the chamber perform for Mrs. Babcock’s
The Pit (for spring musicals).
Fine Arts Director = Producer of the Spring Musical, one of the many responsibilities. One year the
professional bass player was ill. I found a talented electric bass player ( Emma and Aodhan Higgins’ dad)
in the band willing to step in. Since then, more and more students joined until we had a full complement
of student musicians enhancing the sound of our professional pianist.
Save Our Steinway
When I arrived in 1982 the piano was well used and was worse for wear. $20,000 would restore our
beautiful Steinway grand piano. The tenacious and energetic Fine Arts Boosters’ sponsored the SAVE
OUR STEINWAY CONCERT SERIES. The Plaque on the right side of our piano reminds us of the
gracious gift of $15,000 from Tabitha King in honor of her concert pianist mother.
Fine Arts Spring Trips
Bapst offered spring break trips to Europe. I decided we needed to offer less expensive trips to cities in
the Northeast as an alternative. We would explore the cities for their landmarks, shows, and museums.
NYC became the favorite city for the Fine Arts Spring Trip.
Summer Odyssey, Bapst’s Freshman Orientation, Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail
Backpacking on the AT became my favorite summer student activity, even though I hated my very first
hike. I grew to love it so much, I became a Wilderness First Responder. The spring of 1994, the faculty
and administration were brainstorming for events and activities that would create more camaraderie
among the freshman students, coming to from more towns than ever (30-40). My husband and I
renamed our backpacking program to Summer Odyssey. Our Freshman Orientation Backpacking
Program fit the bill. A total of 20 miles. 3 days and 2 nights, including elevation changes of a at least
1,000 ft each day. The beauty of the earth that surrounds you when you hike is indescribable.
Backpacking is the simplest existence… You are carrying your bed, food, and clothing on your back.
Mind over matter and encouragement from your fellow hiker helps you make it to the next tent site. Best
of all, the camaraderie of the group fills your soul, while you eat and tell stories and of course, you get to
A quick look at other fabulous moments of these 36 years.
1. An Anonymous gift of $100,000 for the music program brought us the music locker
room, chorale risers tympani and many drums
2. Making lifelong friends with Sgt. Tillman
3. Remember all the smiles and laughter of the past 36 years
4. Playing for the very cold 2008 Football State Championship
5. Paddling part of Lewis and Clark’s trip up the Missouri River in Montana
6. Being in the audience when Jazz Band wons states for the first time
7. Hearing the Ghost of Bapst not once but twice: TRUE FACT. The first time through
the speaker system in the front office, and second time in the walls of a classroom…
Both were the sound of someone walking and walking.
8. Auctioning off an empty pie plate just to be out done by…..Mr. Mac who auctioned
9. Was there a pool on the roof when I got here?
10.Most of all, the opportunity to give both my children, Nate and Alex, their
diplomas as they walked across the stage at their graduations from Bapst.
The Dedicated Support
Let’s be clear all these events would not have happened without tremendous support and freedom to be
creative from Mr. Sekera, principal; the immense help of the parents of the Fine Arts Boosters, students
leaders and my colleagues . We all worked hard, worked through the bumps and cheered each other on
to make it all happen.
Change in direction for the last 2 years of teaching at Bapst.
An unexpected change happened for me in 2017. My hearing loss was so severe, I choose to step down
from directing the band and chamber and started the first class of piano studio.
This fall, the Piano Studio had 7 new gorgeous keyboards. But, I have been home since November
with my best friend and husband, Bob. I have truly been blessed with the great support of the Bapst
administration for family medical leave, blessed with the energy of my Fine Arts colleagues and secretary
Mrs. Hillery for covering my musical responsibilities, and a huge thanks to Mrs. Wood for guiding my
Magic of Bapst
I hope my story has inspired you to recognize that there is a magic here at Bapst. Often we take it for
granted. You are a very talented and committed community, filled with the joy of learning, friendships and
dreams. Brush off the dust and polish the magic. Never forget: It is your energy that keeps that magic
To the FACULTY
When you are in the middle of a day, any day, you are creating an influence on your students that has
more weight then you can imagine. You should be paid like a doctor, you are so responsible for the
choice of words, tone of voice, humor, knowledge and beliefs that you use as you teach your subject.
Congratulations to you all for choosing this profession. So many times it seems less than rewarding,
especially financially, but it truly is the most honorable profession, second to that of being a parent. One
day, society will understand that after family influence and love, we, the teachers, are one of the most
important cogs in how our youth will grow up. Take heart, the end of the year is near and you will have
the the summer to recharge.
YOU ARE AN AMAZING GROUP. I am so proud to have been part of the JOHN BAPST FACULTY.
My FINAL WISH FOR STUDENTS
● I wish for you the strength to follow your own path; the wisdom to know what is right for you and
what is wrong for you; for you to be generous and share the many wonderful parts of your soul with
others; the strength to love and care for yourself first, so you can give the best to your loved ones and
● Finally, I wish for you to understand that there are three priceless treasures of life: family,
friends, and the beautiful green earth.
With great love to you all, Ewing.