VARDEN-The Western Wayne School District will be losing a longtime teacher at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

VARDEN-The Western Wayne School District will be losing a longtime teacher at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Raymond Stedenfeld, band director, will be retiring in June.

He has been at Western Wayne for 18 years and has taught for 32 years in all. Stedenfeld taught at five different schools before finding the right fit in Western Wayne.

Continued support

“I kept looking for the right place because I knew what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had a vision for a program and it was like every time I was hired, they were always excited about building a program, so I was excited about starting the job.”

Stedenfeld added each time that happened there were road blocks that he didn't think he could overcome.

Lou Zefran was the superintendent when Stedenfeld started at Western Wayne.

“The day after I was hired I came to see him [Zefran] and I said we have a lot of work to do, where do you want me to start and what do you want me to do first?” Stedenfeld said. “He said 'this is why we hired you.

'You go do what you have to do and I promise I'll support you.' That was 18 years ago. That promise from the superintendent was really a promise of the whole school system and the community.”

He added the promise and support that came with it enabled him to accomplish all he did at Western Wayne.

“Administrators or school members would come up to me and say 'you do such a great job' and I always say you can really like to bake pies and you can be the best pie maker in the world, but if you don't have a really good oven, you can't bake a pie,” Stedenfeld said. “That's the way I feel. My vision for what a band should be, the experience I think kids should get, I was not able to complete in other schools. Here [at Western Wayne], I was and that has made all the difference.”

Growing the program

As more students joined the band over the years, Stedenfeld knew they would need an additional teacher.

“It took a few years of presenting the facts to the administration, but eventually they were able to come up with the money to hire an additional teacher,” he stated.

That teacher was Casey (LoRusso) Riley.

“That allowed me the timing to work with the high school, which by then had many kids in the program,” Stedenfeld stated. “I had two band directors who were very passionate about being directors and giving the kids the best possible experience.

“That's what I've always wanted to do, so to me I haven't gone to work a day in my life. I've just done what I love to do and sharing my love and passion for music with them is just fun. I think what it proves is the power of music.”

He also said passion is the key.

“I think that's the key. The people that I've been around who were passionate about music and shared with me, I just wanted to get what they had. To be able to be the person who's sharing that is awesome.”

In the 70s, Western Wayne's marching and concert bands were separate and the marching band actively competed.

Stedenfeld said the marching band always needed more staff. Tom Lopatofsky, chorus director, was very vocal about hiring someone else if the district wanted to have a really good band.

Lopatofsky was also a student at Western Wayne so he saw some of the issues the band was facing.

“With his direction, the administration decided to hire a new teacher and that was me,” Stedenfeld. “When they hired me I was that additional teacher. They gave me an open schedule to do what I wanted, so I had the freedom to go out and start recruiting kids and teaching them how to play.”

Stedenfeld added he believes the marching and concert bands should be the same band, so he put that back together.

“When I first got here I had 17 instrumentalists in the marching band and 35 in the concert band,” he stated. “The kids that were in marching band were also in concert band.”

It was his third year at Western Wayne when he made the switch where students did both marching and concert band.

“We went down to 26 overall and for about two years it was like that,” Stedenfeld said. “Within four years we were over 50 in high school. Then we had 70 and for many years we never dropped below 70.”

He added the 2013-14 band is one of the smallest bands the district has had in the last 10 years. He said next year's band has over 80 signed up.

“Starting with the 2005-2006 school year we started getting around 80,” Stedenfeld stated. “We've consistently had between 70 and 75 members. That's pretty much the average.”

More than competition

Western Wayne only does a few competitions a year. Stedenfeld stated it's always been about the level of performance more than the competition.

“People are always telling me we should compete with the marching band,” he said. “My answer is always the same. We're having way too much fun to compete. When you get into competing it stops being about the music and it becomes about the competition.

“Once it becomes about the competition, it loses everything. We owe it to the composers to do the very best job of playing that we can and performing it to the best of our ability.

“The other problem with competition for me is probably more significant. We have always had kids in the band who cannot perform or march up to a first place standard, but they love it and they want to do it. It's an incredibly important thing to them. The bands that compete heavily are forced, if they ant to win, to tell those kids they can't compete, that they have to be an alternate.

“I just can't do that. If they love being in the band and they work as hard as they can like everyone else, then they are a Western Wayne band member. What I've seen for 32 ears is that kids in band will always accept anybody no matter their level of difficulty. As long as they work hard and as long as they try, the rest of the band will just help.”

Stedenfeld said he hopes his passion and enthusiasm helps the students be more passionate and enthusiastic.

“When they're playing that way it drives me that much more,” he stated. “We work off each other.”


During his final spring concert as the Western Wayne Band Director, Stedenfeld was presented with a gift card to the Settler's Inn thanking him for his service.

“I appreciate it a lot,” Stedenfeld stated. “I'll really miss spring concerts, putting together the field show and I'm going to miss watching them perform on the field after I've worked with them. I'm definitely going to miss being part of their performance.”

Stedenfeld is working with the administration to find and evaluate candidates for the new band director.

“We're going to work very hard together to find t he right person,” he stated. “There's no doubt that it will be different, but there's no reason why it should be anything less than what it is now.”

He added he's fortunate to have worked at Western Wayne.

“What I needed was time to work with the kids and financial support to give them what they needed and for 18 years this district has come through with that,” Stedenfeld said. “It was the best thing I've ever done [coming to the district].

Stedenfeld wishes to thank the administration, the band parents, the band members and the community for their support.

He also gave a big thank you to Kathy Shaffer, who has stuck by his side from day one.

“She was the beginning of this incredible band parents' organization,” he said. “To this day she still takes personal time off work to help outfit every member of the band in their uniform.”

“Among the many things Ray has done in the time he's been here, is establish one of the premiere music programs in the state,” said Superintendent Clay LaCoe. “The marching band is exceptional and he has established a culture of caring and camaraderie, turning it into a hallmark of our district. We thank Ray for that.”