WWU alumnus Steve Herrick, nicknamed “Papa Steve” by his adoring students, is a Whatcom legend. In his 44 years of teaching at Lynden High School he has shepherded students past the honk and squawk of practice to find tone, style, and rhythm, creating memorable performances and a lifelong love of music.
Herrick got his start in teaching music at WWU. His father, Jack Herrick, was a WWU alumnus who taught in the Bellingham school district. Even then, Herrick knew his real love was high school band. “Seems as though I always wanted to be a high school band director. I had made that decision by the third grade, and worked toward that end from that point on.” For 44 years, he enjoyed the challenge and reward of teaching high school.
He cites among his favorite memories of teaching award from Woodring for Professional Excellence, recognition from School Band and Orchestra “50 Directors Who Make a Difference,” and the pride Lynden students took in being in band.
“When one teaches music, he/she teaches not only the mind but the heart. Music education can reach students in ways that most disciplines cannot. Music teachers develop a rapport with students that nurtures their soul, feeds their minds, expands their talents, and develops real-life experiences.”
As a kid, Herrick’s instrument was the trumpet. Later he developed an affection for the guitar, and played in a “loud, obnoxious” rock band with his wife, AnaLyn called “Change of Pace” for 45 years. He also played in a funk band called “Sumpin’ Else.” He also directs the Jansen Art Center community jazz band.
Through his long career and dedication, Herrick has inspired too many students to name. One student who also attended WWU and followed in Herrick’s footsteps as a music educator is Landon Wynne (‘16). Wynne remembers Herrick fondly. “Though I didn't know it at the time I was in high school, Mr. Herrick (as I knew him) was setting up a standard of excellent education that I wouldn't forget as I moved on into my own career path. When, after high school, I realized I was going to pursue a career in education, remembering the consistent, intentional, fun, caring, and wise manner in which Mr. Herrick taught his classes steered me towards music education.”
In 2004, Herrick commissioned a special work called “Spectral Landscapes” for his students from composer Sean O’Loughlin. O’Loughlin is the principal pops conductor of Symphoria, a new orchestra in Syracuse, NY. He has collaborated with Adele, Diana Krall, Gloria Estefan, Brandi Carlisle, Josh Groban, and many other notable musicians, and his critically acclaimed work is performed by orchestras all over the world. Herrick raised money from the Lynden Music Boosters for the commission.
But what Herrick didn’t know was that his current students had a retirement gift for him—they had busked at the Bellingham Farmers Market, raised money, and commissioned a second piece from O’Loughlin for Herrick on the occasion of his retirement. “O’Loughlin is a very gracious and caring person who worked with the kids to make the project attainable for the students.”
The performance on May 31 heralded Herrick’s long career and served as a tribute to his dedicated teaching. Lynden High School alumni and current students performed the O’Loughlin piece in Judson Hall. We’re sure that Landon Wynne speaks for a lot of Herrick’s former students when he says, “It is in no small part that I owe my career choice and my opportunities to Steve Herrick. I know that I have not had the chance to ever thank him enough for what he's done in the lives of so many students, including myself.”