FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – “Well we’ve been to state finals 37 times,” Ed King tries to recall, “I think its 37… it might be 38.”
Whatever the numbers may be, nobody would argue the success the North Side High School Marching Band saw under their former band director.
But after 46 years, influencing several generations of students, King retired this summer.
”[He taught] myself, my husband, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, and all three of my kids,” Heather Freimuth explains, “It’s wonderful. Kind of a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing, is how I feel.”
Parents and students were left wondering, who would replace the North Side ‘Legend’.
Soon, they found out it was a former graduate of the school, a highly experienced band director, and someone they were already familiar with: Aaron King, Ed’s son.
”I was teaching down in Anderson… but I had always come back and helped my dad as much as I could… It felt right to come back home,” Aaron tells ABC21, “I’m 39, and when he started he was 22, so I’ll never touch his legacy. But I’m doing my best to keep things moving in the right direction.”
Ed remembers the moments he accepted the job decades ago, “I had student taught. And the principal called me, and the choir director called me. I said, ‘yeah, I think I can do it’. I was 22, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
It didn’t matter how successful, or how many accolades Ed led the North Side Marching Band and other programs to.
He never questioned leaving the school for other career choices.
”Working with this community was important,” Ed says, “and I never felt like I needed to go anyplace else.”
Ed was more than a teacher and band director to the students.
”I’ve known him since 6th grade. He’s like a father figure almost,” Javon Billingsley tells us, “It’s crazy now. I’m one of his lasts.”
”It’s really sad to see him leave. I know a lot of people were most definitely crying when they found out he was leaving,” William Medsker says, “Passing it on to his son? There’s a lot of potential for him.”
With Ed working alongside Aaron this season, the transition has kept the program running smoothly.
”They’re so similar… the transition was almost perfect,” Derek Stevens-Chavez tells us.
Kendall Cramer adds, “I didn’t think anything would change really because… it’s still ‘King’. It’s Aaron King, albeit it’s not Mr. Ed King”.
For a man many say has worked non-stop for most of his life, retirement wasn’t as difficult adjustment to get used to for Ed.
“I love the kids and I love being with them. That’s the part I miss,” Ed says, “but I don’t miss getting up early, getting ready to go to work. I don’t miss that stuff.”
Aaron tells us, “He’s not going to retire from life, you know what I mean? He’s going to just keep doing what he’s doing. He’s just trying to spend more time with my mom, see his grandkids, and take care of his mother.”
As for the upcoming marching band season?
”I plan on us being as great as we’ve ever been,” Aaron says.
Reflecting on his long career, Ed King shared, “It wasn’t a job. It was a labor of love.”
Ed and Aaron King say their band fees are only $100 per year for students.
It’s a price they’ve been able to keep, the lowest in the state, for the past fifteen years, in part, due to donations.