By RON KELLEY
At first glance, he looks like a tough old Marine, and with good reason. Harry Patzig is Vietnam veteran, a no-nonsense kind of fellow who expects everyone to do their best every day. It’s in his face. What you may not see at first glance is a teacher of 23 years with a love for music and a fierce passion for sharing it.
Patzig has the credentials – degrees from OWC, West Florida and Louisiana State University, where he got his doctorate in music – and taught college in Louisiana and Mississippi.
You may not see it, but you can hear it. Dr. Harry Patzig, now in his fifth year, has taken the Walton High School (WHS) Band to competitions throughout the South and brought home superior and excellent ratings. Patzig has honed the sound of the band, polished it and took his show on the road. Despite its modest size, it is a marching band, handling half-time festivities with confidence and enthusiasm.
Although an increasing number of plaques denoting top honors is threatening to take over the wall space in his office, Patzig placed the credit for the band’s successes with the hard-working students, committed booster club members and the school administration.
“Principal Russell Hughes supports the band 100 percent,” said Patzig. “When we were at a state competition in Jacksonville, he drove over to see us perform and offer encouragement. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s the kind of dedication the man has.”
Patzig praised former WHS principal Mike Davis, too. “He worked so hard on designs for the music department in the new high school. Many of the features throughout the new school are a result of his legwork.” Patzig also acknowledged the efforts of Jim McCall, District finance director, for finding a way to help outfit the band properly, the support of Assistant Principal Terry Shoaf, and the tremendous help of band Booster Club members Lynette Doyle and Veronica Hughes.
Patzig said he has received invaluable help and assistance from other Walton School District music professionals, including Renee Riggs, Cathy Drake and Kamber Harvey. “These wonderful ladies really helped me and work so hard to help prepare the students for a lifetime of music.”
The WHS Band has a busy schedule ahead. In addition to the football games, they’ll be competing heavily in October at Troy State University, at the Dothan Southern Showcase and at the Florida Band Association District 2 Music Fest in Panama City.
“We’ll be doing the Christmas Parade here in December,” he said. “We love doing that for the community and what’s a parade without a marching band?”
How does the 61-year-old keep up the pace? “Kids keep you young. I feel 10 years younger than I am. I feel great!”
Part of Patzig’s exuberance comes from being back home again. Patzig is a former Niceville resident and Choctawhatchee High School graduate. “I’ve been trying to get back home for years,” he said. “I kept watching for openings. I was in Lake Charles when I found out there was an opening here at WHS. My wonderful wife, Lindy, knew this was what I had been waiting for. Nearly overnight, we quickly packed our bags and came to DeFuniak Springs. It was late in the summer and we didn’t have much time, but we did it and we’ve been here ever since.”
The 2008 band is not as large as some WHS bands have been historically, but Patzig said what they lack in numbers, they make up for in talent and determination. “We have an outstanding band and in the last five years we’ve had several exceptional music students go on bigger and better things,” he said. “A flutist and saxophonist got scholarships at OWC and we’ve sent two percussionists to Troy State.”
Though Patzig credits the work and support of others, it’s clear that he remains the driving force behind the success of the Walton High School Band. “Even if I didn’t have all their support, I’d do it anyway. I’d do it because I love it.”
HARRY PATZIG, director of the Walton High School Band, has been inspiring band students to excel, resulting in excellent and superior ratings at competitions throughout the South.