'Spiegel Nation' Rallies to Support Lindbergh Band Director
Bob Spiegelman enjoys the support of friends, family and fellow band directors in his battle against cancer.
Friends and fellow band directors are rallying around Bob Spiegelman, the Lindbergh High School band director of 18 years, in his battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma, which has come back a second time. After a few days at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston he is back in St. Louis and ready to start treatment.
Spiegelman found out the stem cell treatment he was hoping to have would have to be postponed until the lymphoma is gone.
“It was tough hearing that,” he said.
Kurt Bauche, longtime friend of Spiegelman and band director at Farmington (MO) High School, created a Caring Bridge Web site so Spiegelman’s friends can receive medical updates.
“Bob comes to Farmington to get a taste of ‘the country,’ cutting firewood, then sitting in the hot tub,” Bauche said. “We have a great time; there are lots of stories and lots of ideas, jokingly, on how to save the world.”
Spiegelman, who took the Lindbergh High School Spirit of St. Louis Marching Band to its second appearance at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 1, goes to great lengths to find venues for his musicians. The band has played at Lindbergh football and basketball games, performed at Cardinals and Rams games, entertained children at Cardinal Glennon Memorial Hospital, performed at a local community Veterans Day memorial service and has made many other appearances.
“He brings the band to entertain the children with cancer for Rainbows For Kids parties,” said Barbara Jochens, a Rainbows For Kids board member. “Whenever we ask, he is always there to help.”
Though competitors, Spiegelman has great friendships with other band directors including Bauche; Doug Hoover, of Parkway Central High School, and Andrew LaRose, a former student of Spiegelman’s at Lindbergh, who now is assistant band director at Parkway North High School.
LaRose said he was glad to see the Web site set up because so many students past and present are concerned about Spiegelman’s health.
“This Web site will keep us up on his health and let us send messages to him,” LaRose said. “I am sure he appreciates all of our prayers and concern.”
The week he returned home from the New Year’s Day Rose Parade, Spiegelman, who was in Marching Mizzou in college, received news that his illness had suffered a setback.
On Jan. 17, Spiegelman and his parents, Fred and Cecilia, flew to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for some tests. Hoover drove them to the airport.
“He is pretty sick but spent much of his time worrying about his parents,” said Hoover, whose Parkway Central band played at the Orange Bowl. Spiegelman went to Florida to support Hoover.
“Even though he feels pretty cruddy, when I am around him, his personality and sense of humor still come through and I am always a little less worried than when I’m talking to him on the phone,” Hoover said.
Hoover and Spiegelman, who is single, have been friends for 20 years.
“He has watched my kids grow up and been very active in their lives,” Hoover said. “He’s Uncle Bob only they never call him that. My daughter and son have shared lots of great times with Bob. If he doesn't respond to a call from me or my wife Lori, he will usually respond to the kids.”
The band has always meant everything to Spiegelman and though he was sick, he proudly walked in the Rose Parade with the Lindbergh High School musicians.
“Bob had shared so many experiences with the band, staff and band families, I just don't think he wanted to miss out on the final goal of all this collective work,” Hoover said. “He marched most of the parade, and I think that meant a lot to him to finish with the band.”
Jodi Avery, a band parent, sat next to Spiegelman’s mother in the stands as the band marched past the crowd. Avery had two children go through the Lindbergh band program. Both were able to participate in Rose Parade trips, in 2005 and this year.
“Bob’s mom showed her love and pride, as a mother does no matter the age of your child,” Avery said. “As she rose to leave the grandstands, tears welled up in her eyes, right on the cusp of leaking down her cheeks. I am sure it was a different kind of pride for her son in 2011, than it was back in 2005.
“(Spiegelman’s parents) said they have never missed a single memorable event in Bob's life,” Avery said. “They have always been there to show their support and devotion. And now with the trip to Texas, their support has not waned in his 50+ years.”
When Spiegelman was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma a year ago, shortly after returning from an advance trip to last year’s Rose Parade, he sent a note to his students.
“I am confident that with the support I have from my family, faith, a wonderful medical team, friends, great colleagues, and you, I will be able to work though this ‘bump in the road.’”
Spiegelman is facing cancer like he does life - with intensity. He has always expected a lot from his students. Like most band programs, there are extended practices, summer band camp and early band practice every day during “marching season.” He is known for his intensity, but students and parents agree he has the students’ interests at heart. Once their band member graduates, parents realize the positive qualities – love of music, patriotism and spirit - that Spiegelman tries to impart.
"He taught us, through his own demeanor, how to respect each other" LaRose said. "And to have a sense of pride. I have been a band director for six years now and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't ask myself ‘What would Spiegelman do?’”
Many do not realize the level the Lindbergh band has reached, compared with other schools.
“Bob has brought the band to a stature that most of us only dream of,” Bauche said. “He developed a team of energetic music teachers that make the kids want to excel. “He is a forward thinker and believes that a successful band program makes the school climate better.”
Under the baton of Spiegelman, the band has played for President Ronald Reagan, performed at the World Series, in Paris at the air show and at a U.S. ambassador’s residence, marched in the King Kamehameha Parade in Hawaii and made two trips to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
“Spiegelman is community,” LaRose said. “Those in the Lindbergh District understand this because he has immersed himself in this South County neighborhood.”
LaRose is one of the students Spiegelman taught who went on to become band directors, a list that includes Jeff Jehle at Ft Zumwalt West, Denny McFarland at Pattonville, Bryan Wys at Lindbergh and Jackie Hartenberger, who works with the Texas Longhorns Band at University of Texas at Austin.
“The Lindbergh band has represented the district and St. Louis around the world,” LaRose said. “It’s not because he wants his name remembered, but rather he wants his students and community recognized for excellence.”
“Bob has a great passion for kids, bands, and life,” Hoover said. “I am optimistic. This (lymphoma) is a tough challenge but I know he will meet it. He's got a lot more he wants to do.”
For all Spiegelman means to “Spiegel Nation” - the name some of his supporters have adopted - the new Web site will provide an opportunity for the community to join together in prayer and good wishes for a successful treatment and cure so he can continue in his 30th year as a music educator, inspiring students to more great things.