Dan Turner: Gardening is like a lot of other things in my life. I’ve been digging in the dirt all my life. And my father grew up on a farm and really enjoyed raising things, and my mother always liked to have petunias and other things growing close to the house, so it was just natural to be outdoors and digging and planting.
With a garden, everybody realizes that what you sow in the garden is eventually what you’re going to reap, and of course, that is true in our lives, it’s true in our Christian lives, and it’s also true in working with students. What you put into them, what you attempt to really bring them to, is maturity. And sometimes it takes longer than others, just like certain plants take longer to mature and to come to the yield, but everyone who gardens recognizes that you get what you plant, and it takes time.
In 1970, Bob Jones Elementary School was organized, and at that point, the administration determined to have a music program there. In 1971, I was asked to start brass classes at the Elementary School, and when I finished my student teaching in 1972, then I was asked to stay and to develop the instrumental programs at Bob Jones Elementary School, Bob Jones Junior High, which is now middle school and Bob Jones Academy. So, from 1972 to 1983–84, that school year, I was the band director and taught brass lessons, music appreciation, music theory class at Bob Jones Academy and led all of those programs in those three precollege schools.
In 1983, Jim Conley—he had been my university band director while I was here—he retired to go full-time into the pastorate at Heritage Bible Church, and at that point, Dr. Gustafson called me in and asked me if I would consider moving to the University level, and I had felt actually compelled to return to the University of Illinois and work on a doctorate. So, that fit right in with Dr. Gustafson’s conversation with me. The university program, when I became director, was about 38 or 40 that first year, and at our height, we had the university wind band of about 50, and then a university concert band of another 45 to 55 players, depending on the semester.
Leading an instrumental ensemble is something I’ve always wanted to do. I knew at 12 years of age what I wanted to do and that was to be a band director. And I’ve told the students every year that God has given me the desire of my heart. There is no way in my wildest imagination that I would have been able to conceive of taking a university music program, with the incredibly talented instrumentalists that we have that come here to school and be able to conduct some of the greatest pieces of literature written for concert band. There’s no way in the world that I could have even dreamed that, but yet God gave me that.
Working in music with an ensemble of varied individuals is an awful lot like trying to prepare a garden space that will bring about great beauty but will also minister to those deeper needs that all human beings have that is part of God’s image in us. Of course, in a garden, just like in an ensemble, we have to prepare the ground, we have to plant the habits, the seeds, that we want to see grow and mature, and then we get the opportunity to see the great things that God does as these lives break into full bloom for Him, and it’s a glorious thing.