A celebration of life and music

Not many people voluntarily would?allow a high school band to march?through their home, let alone instruct?a band to do so. North Newton resident?John Banman is an exception.

Daughter Nancy Banman, who resides in Fort?Collins, Colo., loves to recount the time her father?did just that while leading the Ellinwood High
School marching band as its instructor.
With the school located downtown, the band?would practice marching in the streets. During?one rehearsal, Ban man told the drum major to?lead the band through his house and not tell anyone.
When Banman gave the signal, the band?marched through the front door and into the?house, helped themselves to doughnuts, then proceeded
out the back door and across the street. At?least part of the time the band was playing.
Banman became a music instructor because?music was important to him.
?Obviously, I liked that the most,? he said.??There certainly were jobs where I could make?more money. At night when I can?t sleep, I still?think of ways I would teach against the rules.?
?Dad was a great teacher and got numerous?awards in teaching,? said Nancy during a recent?conversation on Skype.
Banman has spent a great deal of his life with?music. As a child, he took lessons from Ernest?Sanderson, who lived in the 100 block of West?First in Newton; Banman was Sander son?s student?through high school.
Banman, soon to celebrate his 95th birthday,?majored in musical constructs at Wichita?University, graduating in 1940. Two years later?received the first master?s degree given in clarinet?performance from Northwestern University in?Evanston, Ill.
Banman taught music his entire career, mostly?at Ellinwood. Before that, he taught in Clearwater.

He instructed band and choral music, retiring in?1976.
A highlight of his teaching career in Ellinwood?was arranging to have Doc Severinsen from ?The?Tonight Show? perform with the band; this was
around 1965. Severinsen played fine classical and?jazz with them.
?It was a good experience for those students,??Banman said.
He enjoyed adapting conventional teaching?methods and created musical exercises and song?arrangements that helped students practice certain
techniques, according to Nancy.
The retired teacher became interested in?choral music while at Northwestern because people?would perform choral music during the?lunch hour.
?I enjoyed choral music very much,? he said.
In addition to teaching music, Banman is an?accomplished clarinet player; at a moment?s?notice, he can play a number of tunes by memory.
The first time Banman saw a clarinet was?when he watched the Snigglefritz Band play in?Goessel. He asked his mother about ?that big?licorice stick? that a man was playing. In addition?to playing a ?licorice stick,? licorice is one of?Banman?s favorite candies.
Love of life?

When he suffered a stroke about six years?ago, Banman combined his passion for music?with a passion for life to overcome its effects.?Knowing that research at Northwestern University had found that music can?help with cognitive function, Banman?began playing ? not well at first, but he?became better over time. His persistence?helped him overcome the stroke?s?effects. Today, one can?t tell he?s had a?stroke.
During the past five years, Banman?has been performing. He?s come full circle?and has played with the Snigglefritz?Band. He also plays classical music with?volunteers on Thursdays and took part?in a large program in November at?Schowalter Villa in Hesston. He also?performs the national anthem during?the Senior Olympics at Kidron Bethel,?where he resides.
?I like pop songs very much, too,??Banman said.
He also has written some songs. ?I?suppose, kinda halfway. There?s so?many, it?s hard to come up with new?ideas,? he said.
One project he?d like to pursue is?put scriptural words to the ?Stardust??melody. He?s also done many, many?arrangements that haven?t been published.
Banman?s 95th birthday will be June?23; he shares that birth date with his?daughter.
?It?s always been good (sharing a?birthday with my father), and my?brother has a birthday the day before,?so we all shared the party,? Nancy said.
Nancy?s parents told her that?because of her impending birth, an?Ellinwood High School summer outdoor?band concert her father was?directing was canceled. The rain might?have had something to do with the cancellation,?as well.
?That?s the folklore, anyway,? Nancy?said.

The early years
Banman was born on a farm?between Canton and Goessel. He?attended a Goessel school his first year,?then attended school in Newton after?the family moved there. He played basketball?for Newton High School?s second?team and for Bethel College for?one year. He said he didn?t play often?for Bethel, but during one game, he?made two baskets ? one tied the game,?and the other put the team ahead.
Banman may not have been celebrating?his 95th birthday this month if it?had not been for a simple twist of fate at?a train station during World War II.
At the time, Banman was in the military,?waiting to board a train with other?military members at the beginning of a?trip to fight overseas. Noticing a military?band playing at the train station,?Banman pulled out his clarinet and?began playing with the band until it was?time to leave. As he left the band to?board the train, the director called?Banman back ? and just like that,?Banman was in the military band and?didn?t have to fight.
?I know you?ve told me a number of?times how fortunate you felt,? Nancy?said to her father.
Usually when Banman tells the story,?he said, ?I high-tailed it back (to the?band when the director called me?back),? added Beth Penner, director of?activities at Kidron Bethel.
Banman is a Mennonite, and his?father was a preacher. Most Mennonites?were supposed to be conscientious?objectors during the war, but Banman?joined the military out of a sense of?duty to his community, although he?detests the tragedy of war.
?I just don?t believe in killing people,??Banman said, sitting in his room?surrounded by the scrapbooks he creates.
Besides scrapbooking, he reads?many newspapers front to back.
In addition to serving one?s country,?Banman values family and volunteering.
After he and his wife, Iris, moved back?to the Newton area, Banman volunteered?to help Arlo Kasper with projects?such as building sets for plays and musicals?at Bethel College. He and Iris were?married for 58 years. The couple had?two children, Nancy and Paul; Paul is a?jazz musician.

When Iris moved to Kidron Bethel Village, John took up?residence there to be close to her. They lived down the hall?from each other in separate rooms. When John performed,?Iris would come and listen to him play.
John and Iris loved to watch sports on TV. After 58 years of?marriage, he would ask Kidron staff for a Coke, root beer and?a Hershey bar so he could have a date with his wife.
Then, he?d proceed down to her room and watch sports?or ?Beethoven? movies.
The couple believed giving back to one?s community was?important. Nancy said she learned from her parents that giving?to others, having a hobby and nurturing that hobby are?important, too.
That is John Banman?s advice for living a good, long life.
?Try to think of something you can do to make this a good?world,? he said. ?I guess I do think about that. I just think, is?there a reason to live past 100? I don?t know. Should I do?that, I?d certainly like to do something worthwhile…something?I could do to help others.?
The night Iris wife died, Nancy sang hymns to her mother?by her bedside.
?She did so bravely ? that?s the way to live life, as far as?I?m concerned,? Banman said.

Still an innovator, he and Nancy are?the first Skypers at Kidron Bethel. They?seem to have a good time talking ?face-to-face? on computer screens. While?Skyping with his daughter on a recent?afternoon, Banman said, ?I?m fortunate?to be as healthy as I am, Nancy.?


Story and photos by?Wendy Nugent

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