After 26 years of leading a variety of Truman High School marching, jazz and symphonic bands, self-confessed "bus warrior" and Elvis fan Todd Reinhardt is stepping away to spend more time with his family.
"It wasn’t a decision that came easily," Reinhardt said.
"I have a son, Connor, who will be in eighth grade and he plays competitive baseball and my daughter Ella, a fourth grader at Blackburn, plays competitive softball, and I’ve missed way too many of their games over the years.
"So I’m going to be going to my kids’ games, spending more time with my wife Kristen and enjoying life as a retired guy."
He pauses for a moment, and grins, adding, "I’m only 53, so I will be working somewhere. I just don’t know where yet."
Truman Activities Director Daniel Bieser said he’s sorry to see Reinhardt leave.
"I really enjoyed working with Todd this year and getting to know him throughout the year," Bieser said. "Todd was a huge part of the game day experience at Truman."
"He always did an amazing job with the band. Their performances at football games were outstanding. Then when basketball season hit, he would play with the pep band and get everyone ready for the game."
For more than two decades, Reinhardt created something special at Truman.
"When I got here, let’s just say that band wasn’t cool," Reinhardt said. "They had about 70 students in the band in the fall of 1974 and our former principal Jeff White told me, ‘We want you to build a band.’ And we did!"
The number of students in the Truman marching band have reached as high as 240 and is now in the 175-180 range.
"It took a while to get the numbers up," Reinhardt said, "but once we got them up, they stayed about where we hoped they would be."
Reinhardt’s marching bands have been to Florida and Hawaii three times, Washington D.C. twice and even played at Mount Rushmore.
"We bused to Mount Rushmore, which really didn’t bother me because I’m a bus warrior," joked Reinhardt. "When we would fly to locations, it was the first time in a plane for many of the kids, or the first time they ever saw the ocean or the White House – those are moments you never forget."
Another moment he will never forget was when his 2003 marching band squad dressed like Elvis Presley for every performance.
"We bought about $3,000 worth of polyester and made 230 band costumes in the basement of a church in Englewood," said Reinhardt.
"The first time the band showed up in the Elvis outfits – complete with sunglasses and Elvis hair – our principal then, Mike Jeffers, asked that we wear a traditional band uniform when we do the national anthem then change into the Elvis gear.
"That was a chore, so I convinced him that we would take off the sunglasses and Elvis hair for the national anthem, and that was OK with him."
"Really, looking back on that squad, we had so much fun. And anytime we went to a competition, no one wanted to follow us because a band would be out playing and all anyone wanted to talk about was the Elvis band."
"It was all pretty hilarious."
There are few band mementos in Reinhardt’s home – a photo of the Elvis band and some special photos signed to Reinhardt by senior band members.
"This was not a decision that came easily for me," Reinhardt said. "I have loved the past 26 years, but these past couple of months have been difficult on me, the kids and everyone who has been affected by this pandemic."
"We were ready to perform at the state ensemble festival on March 12 when I got the phone call … that MSHSAA (the Missouri State High School Activities Association) had canceled the event."
"I believe members of the Fort Osage band were on the way to the festival when they got the news and a band was pulled off the stage as it was about to perform."
"That was a difficult day for me and the members of our band. No one knows when this is all going to end, and if there will be school in the fall – and if there is, what will it be like?
"The uncertainty really got to me, and I decided it was time to say goodbye, which was tough because I had to tell my kids about it by email, when I would have preferred meeting with them face to face."
"But the decision has been made and I feel good about it, I think I made the right decision and I’m still going to live in Independence so I will be able to see them perform and they will know how to get a hold of me."
Now, much like the rock ‘n roll idol who thrilled millions with his gyrations and classic tunes, Reinhardt has left the building.