NEW PALESTINE — They had one more practice session to get everything perfect for their first competition of the year. The New Palestine High School show choirs were hard at work, going over their performances, polishing their acts.

In the middle of a recent practice stood Steve Beebe, the school’s music director. He was in his normal role, calling out orders, offering suggestions and dishing up encouragement as if nothing were wrong.

Only this performance season is different for Beebe, the leader of the school’s Diamond Sensations and Crimson Heat show choirs. The man who makes his living using his voice is battling a disease that threatens to rob him of it. Beebe, who has been teaching in New Palestine schools for 11 years, was diagnosed last month with tonsil cancer.

The students Beebe has spent years teacher are rallying around him, supporting the director they say has always been there for them. The choir’s booster club is holding a fundraiser, selling $10 T-shirts bearing the phrase, “Beebe Brave,” to help the family with medical costs.

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Students, parents and friends will wear those T-shirts to choir competitions, said Miranda Miller, booster club president said. They plan to show their support even if Beebe is too ill to stand alongside them, a tribute to the director who got them there.

Beebe is currently undergoing treatment, but he’s giving his job his all while he’s able. For now, he looks and sounds as strong as ever. Beebe knows the treatments will take their toll, but he’s vowed to make life as normal as possible for as long as he can.

His focus — as always — is on his students, making sure they’re prepared for the contest season ahead.

“You’ve got to keep going,” Beebe said. “The students have worked so hard for this, and I’m not going to take anything away from them.”

Beebe is working part time and hopes to return to full-time work after spring break — just in time for the spring concert.

It’s not just his students’ progress he wants to see; Beebe’s son graduates in the spring, and Beebe wants to be there — healthy — to see him walk across the commencement stage.

Beebe said he was pleased by his students’ fundraiser and has been blown away by the support, not just from current students and faculty but New Pal grads and the community.

“It’s beyond humbling,” he said. “I am overcome with the support and the outreach … It’s just been overwhelming.”

Matalynn Miller, a Doe Creek Middle School eighth-grader, has been directed by Beebe since she was in elementary school.

It was hard hearing the news about someone she respects, she said.

Beebe inspires her to work hard, she said, and she’ll continue to give her all in class as a means of supporting her teacher.

Beebe is treating his battle as a means to educate students, and he’s determined to stay positive on his journey. He’s been posting positive, even funny, pictures of his treatments on social media to show his students he’s doing well.

Those images, of the smiling teacher they know and love, bring comfort.

“He’s putting it out there with his quirky personality in ways to help the kids handle it better,” Miller said.

Beebe expects to lose his voice at least temporarily as he undergoes treatment — something his singers are dreading as much as he is.

“It’s been unbelievably hard — something you don’t expect to hear,” said senior Sami Roembke, one of Beebe’s students. “Our choirs … really need to do the best we can for Mr. Beebe. … We need to be successful for him.”

Show of support

“Beebe Brave” T-shirts can be purchased at Doe Creek Middle School. For more information, call 317-861-4487 and ask to speak with Robin Pratt.  

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.