COOLIDGE — Roger Anderson took on the role of Coolidge High School marching band director in 1991, initially intent on running the program until the district could find a more permanent replacement for his predecessor.
But what began as an agreement to run the program as a long-term sub, snowballed into an 11-year gig.
“Nobody has ever really stayed that long,” he said. “If you go back through all the yearbooks, no (band director) stayed for more than two or three years. There were a couple that stayed for six, and one or two that stayed for five.”
Anderson is one of five inductees to the CHS hall of fame for 2018. He was nominated by a former student.
He served as the school’s band director from 1991 to 2002, growing the program from just 48 participants when he began to more than 250 players in the late 1990s.
“We had one of the largest small-town bands in the state of Arizona,” he said. “At a time when rural town bands were really small, ours was this giant thing in the middle of the desert essentially.”
The son of Gene and Delphia Anderson and a CHS alumni who graduated in 1984, he actually first became interested in marching band when he began in his fifth grade year learning under instructor Marvin Anderson (no relation).
“For me, (music) was where I found my value,” he said. “I couldn’t play sports as well as some of the other kids, I didn’t get the straight A’s in math or science, but when it came to music I think I just understood it. (When) I could pick up an instrument and play it, that gave me a sense of belonging.”
He would eventually go on to play in marching band all four years of his high school career, and even served as the Coolidge band president for the 1983-84 school year.
Then, in 1991, just seven years after he graduated, he was offered the position of CHS band director at the age of 25.
Anderson said that he was offered the job on a Monday and began teaching that Wednesday. He had only two days to prepare before the band was supposed to play at a home football game on Friday night.
“I knew Coolidge kids could do anything we set our minds to,” he said.
It was that same belief in the potential he saw while teaching at Coolidge that made Anderson stay on for 11 years.
“I had built something big, and I knew it could continue for a long time, so why let it go?” he said. “Why not continue to make a positive impact on the students and the town as long as possible?”
Under his supervision, the program quickly gained traction within the community, earning a spot at the State Marching Band Festival eight consecutive times during a time when the scoring system was a lot more rigorous Anderson noted.
“Back then that really just didn’t happen in Coolidge,” he said.
The CHS marching band would even go on to win several “Superior” ratings and perform at a myriad of different functions including away games, parades, pep assembles, contests, etc. The entire marching band would even perform at Disneyland in the Spring of 1999.
By the end of his 11-year term with the district, Anderson had been involved in more than 500 band performances.
“I thought (the nomination) was pretty cool,” he said. “It’s humbling and honoring, it’s good to see that people remember that I did good work there.”
Anderson has been a teacher for 28 years, and currently teaches fifth and sixth grade band at Gilbert Unified School District. He is also in the process of attaining his PhD at Arizona State University.
Yet despite moving on, he still holds the Coolidge marching band dear to his heart, attending the homecoming football game every year just so he can play alongside the Coolidge marching band.