For the students in the Perry High School band, the most sour note of the school year was played two weeks ago, when the popular Brandon Weeks announced his resignation at Instrumental Music Director at PHS to assume a similar role at North Polk.
“There were a lot of tears,” senior Allie Hopkins said. “At first we could not believe it. It was a very emotional day.”
Weeks student-taught in Perry, then was hired on to replace veteran instructor Steve Cook. He will leave after three years at Perry, a tenure he called “more than I could have possibly asked for.”
Originally from Cambridge, IA, the Ballard High School and Iowa State University grad, along with wife Leah (an Ankeny native) will be moving closer to family.
“Leah and I don’t have any kids yet,” Weeks said, “but if that is in our future having both sets of parents right there will be very beneficial.”
North Polk is a growing district, now numbering approximately 100 less students in 9-12 than in Perry. With explosive growth in Ankeny — particularly to the north — the district will be one of the five fastest-growing, by percentile, in Iowa in a few years.
Weeks is also close to the middle school music director, as each was in the other’s wedding.
“I look forward to working with her,” Weeks said. “I have had great relationships in Perry, and I don’t want to discount those. Jenn Nelson (Perry Vocal Music Director) has been a great friend and a pleasure to work with, and Leah and I have enjoyed the support we have received here.”
“We love the community and the school,” he said. “It was going to take the perfect scenario to pull me away, and it just so happened that that is what came up. I didn’t expect it and would have been happy staying here, but I just feel that I personally cannot pass up this opportunity. It truly was a ‘family-first’ decision, and, even then, was not an easy one.”
Hopkins, who was named the John Philip Sousa Award winner this year, had lauded Weeks at the Spring Concert May 1. She presented him with a binder full of personal notes from each member of the band, numbering nearly 100.
“It was full waterfall when I told them,” Weeks said. “When I student-taught here I told my parents ‘I have to teach here one day’ and then Mr. Cook retired and I got the job. I was lucky to get it and have been blessed every day.”
“I want to make sure everyone understands that there was nothing negative that made me leave, nothing at all,” he stressed. “I wanted to make sure if I ever left that I would be leaving the program better than I found it, and I think I have, but that credit goes to the kids. I wish everyone in the public could see the hard work I have seen these kids put in the past three years. They have made enormous strides, and the credit is all theirs.”
Hopkins said the students loved Weeks, in part, because “It was just like he was one of us.”
“He was always telling the corniest jokes or saying the weirdest things, and we would just roll our eyes and laugh,” she said. “He made us feel proud to be in band, made us feel important, and you could just sense he cared about every student, from the best musician to those who really struggled. Band became fun and it is because of Mr. Weeks.”
Under Weeks the marching band received new uniforms, appeared in parades and played in competitions — something that had not been done for many years. The pep band received new sweaters (hockey jerseys to the unschooled) and learned a few new numbers as well.
“He would tell us ‘have a great day’ and ‘make good decisions’ at the end of class every day,” Hopkins said. “I loved having him for my last three years.”
“I know many of the kids who are not seniors are a little worried about how things will be different next year, but I told them I trusted their talent and their dedication and that they would be just fine,” Weeks said. “The last thing I said to them is something I stole from (ISU women’s basketball coach) Bill Fennelly: ‘Celebrate what you have. Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.’ I know when I think of my time in Perry I will always smile.”