Students, teachers remember educator

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central High School music department lost another of its long-loved leaders this week, prompting the school’s former students to plan a weekend reception aimed at honoring the educator they say made them feel like family.

Steve Angel, who directed the high school band for nearly a decade, died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism this week.

Angel was hired as Greenfield-Central’s band director in 2002. In recent years, he served as an assistant principal at Brookville High School in Franklin County and then principal of Northeaster High School in Wayne County.

To celebrate his life and contributions, Greenfield-Central alumni have organized a local memorial service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Greenfield-Central Academy, 700 N. Broadway St. Community members are welcome to attend.

Though Angel faced some health issues in recent years, his death shocked those closest to him, his former colleagues said. He awoke on Christmas morning with chest pains, and doctors later discovered a blood clot had formed in his lungs. He died a few hours later at Reid Health, a medical center near his home in Richmond.

Angel’s is the third death the Greenfield-Central Schools’ tight-knit music department has suffered this year: in May, Janette Hardy, a longtime music teacher at Maxwell Middle School and an accompanist for the high school band and choral programs, and Penny Hicks, who served as the high school’s music secretary for 16 years, died within days of each other after battles with cancer.

Those losses have made for a difficult few months for local young musicians and their teachers, said Mary Evers, the high school’s former longtime choir director, who worked alongside Angel, Hardy and Hicks during their time at Greenfield-Central and saw the passion each brought to their work.

“I know they are up in heaven right now cheering us on, telling us to keep making music,” she said.

Angel played a big part in expanding the music classes and programs offered to Greenfield-Central students while turning the school’s marching band into the powerhouse it is today, said Greenfield-Central High School principal Steve Bryant.

Angel oversaw the creation of new school music groups, including the indoor percussion ensemble and winter guard, said Bryant, who hired Angel to head the music department 14 years ago.

Angel commanded excellence, friends and former students said. During Angel’s tenure with the district, the Cougar Pride Marching Band placed sixth at the 2006 Indiana State School Music Association State Band Competition; and the percussion ensemble in 2007 earned a first-place finish in the Scholastic A Class at the Winter Guard International Percussion World Championships.

When Angel moved on from Greenfield-Central in 2012 to pursue a career as a school administrator, he left behind a legacy that still stands strong today, Bryant said: that ambitious goal-setting, vigorous determination and day-to-day hard work became a hallmark of Greenfield Central’s programs.

But more important than the accolades were the relationships Angel forged with his students, Bryant said. The man had a way of making everyone – from pupils to parents – feel as though they were part of something important, Bryant said.

Angel’s former students say they appreciated having a teacher as personable as Angel, who treated them like family.

Paul Tarricone, who graduated from Greenfield-Central in 2012 and went on to study music at Indiana University, said Angel’s message of togetherness is something that stuck with him as he continued his music education.

Angel preached working hard individually because it meant a bigger, better contribution to a group effort, Tarricone said; and that message still inspires Tarricone when he plays today.

Angel never let a student leave him without a smile on their face, said Natalie Clifton, a 2008 Greenfield-Central grad who served as the marching band’s drum major for three years under Angel’s guidance.

Clifton said Angel knew exactly what to say to make students feel confident, even on their lowest days, and inspired them to do their best.

“He built a legacy for Greenfield, not just the band but the community,” Clifton said. “He saw potential in us when we didn’t see it in ourselves.”

Memorial planned

Greenfield-Central alumni have organized a local memorial service for former band director Steve Angel from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Greenfield-Central Academy, 700 N. Broadway St.

All community members are welcome to attend.

Angel served as Greenfield-Central’s band director from 2002 to 2012, during which time he helped expand and strengthen the school’s music program.

Looking to help?

Former band director Steve Angel, who died unexpectedly Christmas Day, left behind two children, Tori and Tanner. Those who knew the family well are collecting money to help fund their ongoing education. Memorial contributions can be made to the Steve Angel Memorial Fund, c/o any First Federal Community Bank, PO Box 38, Dover, OH 44622.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or