Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Surprise sendoff orchestrated for SMC band director

04/24/2019 - 8am
Jon and Donna Korzun

Retiring Southwestern Michigan College Director of Bands Dr. Jon Korzun lost complete control of his Jazz Band rehearsal April 23.

First, Andrew Fisher appeared singing “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“Doc’s” wife, Donna, then slipped in the side door of the Dale A. Lyons Building theatre as musicians put finishing touches on Friday night’s 7:30 Collage Concert — Korzun’s last after 28 years before hanging up his baton. Donna was followed by her sister, Dana, carrying a flat cardboard box.

Trailing them were SMC President Dr. David Mathews, Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming, Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky, Director of Choral Activities David Carew and graphic design instructor Bill Rothwell, who is also retiring after 20 years. Rothwell’s students create artwork inspired by songs the band plays at fall concerts.

Musicians on the stage, in on the surprise, suddenly fell quiet to witness the Korzuns dance as Fisher serenaded them with Frank Sinatra’s classic.

Donna presented the box to her husband “for all the missed dinners, all the wonderful concerts and all the wonderful students I’ve gotten to know over the years.” The piece of art inside contained the “Fly Me to the Moon” lyrics.
“You got me,” Korzun said, bewildered by the sudden turn of events. “You have no idea how much it took her not to reveal any of this. She was bursting at the seams some nights, so I knew something was going on, but I think it’s the first time in our marriage she’s caught me completely off guard. This is overwhelming.”

“I decided to spend my life in higher education because of an experience I had with a professor like Dr. Korzun,” Mathews said. “In thinking about his replacement, I wondered if cloning was an option. We want an expert in their field, but we also want someone who at some point decided the way they’re going to take their passion for music is by passing it on to others in a way that is not just demanding, but encouraging, and helping students not just with their music, but with their lives.”

“Jon’s legacy,” Mathews continued, “is a long line of students for decades that he has poured his life’s energy into. We are, of course, sad to see him go, but happy to see he’ll be able to spend more time with Donna. Spending your life investing in other people is the highest calling.”

Fleming, who joined SMC 10 years ago from a business college heavily invested in sports, grew up an “English and music geek. The work Jon and Dave and Marcus Roll do help make this institution great. I bring my family to every show I can.”

Carew, in his 15th year teaching at SMC, was finishing up his Michigan State University master’s degree and leading Edwardsburg’s choir when Korzun convinced him to “throw my hat in the ring. Even then I knew the reputation Doc had at SMC. I couldn’t have asked for a better colleague and a brilliant man to observe over the years. I appreciate everything you’ve brought to my life and to students’ lives.”

Fisher, a former SMC student who fronts an eponymous neo-soul jazz quartet, told Korzun, “I will always be grateful for you pushing me to the next level. I can literally point to you and say, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.’ You believed in what I was doing at a point in my life where I was following everybody else’s shadow. You were the person who said, ‘Do what you’re supposed to do.’ I’ll always be grateful for that. You always went beyond teaching me a music class, you actually wanted me to be more of a human being. I’ll always love you and will sit and listen to all of your stories, no matter how long it takes.”