Brian Johnson/AFN Former Desert Vista graduates (from left) Brandon Burr, Josh Thye and David DuPlessis are now back working for Tempe Union High School District as band directors. All of the men attended the University of Arizona but, while DV students, were inspired by the late Eric Holden who passed away in 2003. Aug. 10, 2010

Those who knew him say a person like Eric Holden only comes around once in a lifetime.

For three friends and former students, the late Desert Vista band director was an inspiration to succeed, and he embodied what teaching music was all about.

Brandon Burr, David DuPlessis, and Josh Thye, all Desert Vista graduates, have achieved their own level of success, each becoming band directors at Tempe Union high schools. Burr runs the program at Marcos de Niza High School and DuPlessis is stationed at Corona del Sol.

In what he describes a "weird circle of events", Thye, 29, took over as Desert Vista Band Director after Holden lost the battle with cancer in 2003.

"(Desert Vista) came to me and asked if I would interview for the position," he said. "At the time I was student teaching at Akimel (A-al Middle School) and, because of what had just happened, I was mentally and emotionally not ready to interview."

Nonetheless, Thye interviewed and was offered the job. But taking over for Holden wouildn't be easy, and he knew that going in.

"There were a lot of emotions," he said. "It was definitely bigger than me, it still is. Walking in there, there's such high expectations. It's a unique feeling."

The three Desert Vista students became friends playing trumpet for Holden, and they all chose to attend the University of Arizona after graduating. Burr, 26, and DuPlessis, 27, three and two years behind Thye, respectively, were still in college when they heard the news.

"We heard he wasn't doing great, but everyone thought he would be back," Burr said.

But, sadly, Holden never did come back. The tuba player who was known for calling odd times, "it's Holden time," was gone.

"It was a really difficult time for the Desert Vista band family," Thye said.

After filling Holden's job, Thye's next step was to move into his old office.

"It was my job to organize the office," he said. "I was going through the files, and some I just didn't know what to do with. One box took me a year to go through. It was a hard time."

But now, more than seven years later, they can all look back on the career and life of a man who helped inspire their own.

"He made everyone feel important and special to the program," DuPlessis said. "We are committed to his legacy in that way."

After graduating from the University of Arizona, all three said they would have been happy with almost any job, preferably somewhere small so they could build their teaching methods.

But Burr became band director at Marcos de Niza in 2007 and DuPlessis took over at Corona del Sol at the start of last year.

"It was a strange process there," Burr said. "I think we all skipped a number of steps getting to where we are now. We all think to become band director of legitimate and large high school, it's a rare opportunity and we are fortunate to be here."

For Thye, who attended Desert Vista the year it opened, it has come full-circle.

"We can all trace it back to Eric Holden," Thye said. "He was the one who got us thinking about teaching music."

For this band of brothers, the legacy of their first commander will never be forgotten.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.