PRATT — When Skyline fifth-raders checked out musical instruments earlier this month in Pratt, there was a lot of musical history in the room. Skyline Band Director Bob Lee helped students and parents through the process. Former band directors Bob Bitter and Don Buhler, both representatives of Sensensy Music of Wichita were on hand to help students make their instrument selection and to advise on proper care of instruments.
Among the three music teachers were 105 years of collective teaching experience that spans the state of Kansas and has touched many young instrumentalists.
Buhler has 36 years of teaching experience with three at Stafford, three at Salina Central and 30 at Pratt High School.
Bitter has 35 years with three at Syracuse, 9 at Pratt, 17 at Sacred Heart and six at Skyline. He also ran the B&L Music store in Pratt.
Lee taught 22 years at Pratt High School and 11 at Skyline.
The lives of these three band directored have intertwined over the years. Buhler took over for Bitter at Pratt High School. Lee was Buhler’s assistant for five years then took over the head band director for three years when Buhler taught at another district. Buhler returned to Pratt and was once again head band director while Lee took the assistant role.
Bitter had been teaching at Skyline for six years and decided to retire so Lee took over as band director for the Thunderbirds and is now in his eighth year. This years 2020 seniors include his first class of fifth-graders, Lee said.
Lee said he has know Bitter and Buhler for 33 years. He worked with Buhler at Pratt High School and Bitter was running B&L Music. Lee was fresh out of college when he arrived in Pratt and right away he had two mentors, Buhler at school and Bitter at the music store. This flourished into a lasting friendship that continues today. A couple of times a year, the three would gather for lunch, discuss what they had going on and they had a great time.
“I still value their opinions to this day,” said Lee.
Buhler said band directors take care of themselves. Bitter made sure the Buhler got off to a good start in Pratt. Bitter made sure Buhler wanted to stay in Pratt.
As band directors, they make relationships and help each other out. They keep in touch with each other. Buhler said his work with Sensensy Music in Wichita helps him help other band directors across southwest and south central Kansas. It helps get kids started early with a worthwhile activity in band and music.
Bitter said the three men have helped each other over the years. When Lee was looking at the Skyline job and Bitter wanted to retire, Bitter took Lee and his wife, Kim, on a band trip to Branson. Bitter basically turned over the baton to Lee for the bands number and it turned out to be a smooth transition when Lee took over as band director the next year. All three of Lee’s children were in the band at Skyline.
“You don’t always get the opportunity to do that kind of thing,” Bitter said.