WHITEHOUSE (KYTX) - Music is in Denny Whitley's blood. He tried to retire once, but that didn't quite work out.
He was back at Whitehouse High School the next year, telling students how many steps to take during marching season and making sure they were hitting their notes just right.
"It's not necessarily the fact that I'm making better musicians, it's more I'm making better people," said Denny Whitley.
I guess you could say I was one of those people he made better. When I was in his band, there was a message behind the music.
"Your life is God's gift to you, and what you do with it, is your gift back to God," said Whitley.
I can still hear him saying those words today. Scott Eeds can, too. Thirty years ago, he was in Mr. Whitley's middle school band in Clarksville, Texas.
"He's still Mr. Whitley, a lot of teachers you call by their first names, he'll never be Denny, he'll be Mr. Whitley forever," said Scott Eeds.
Now, he's a teacher and coach at the same school as his old band director. His own children have had a chance to call Mr. Whitley their band director.
"He forced you to have a commitment, when you committed to something, you were going to stick with it, you were going to do your best," explained Eeds.
Perhaps, no one knows that better than Mr. Whitley's own son.
"Most students get him for five days a week, I got him for seven," said Jamey Whitley.
Jamey Whitley was in band, marching to his father's beat, before he could say his first word.
"With band being like a family, I feel like I've had, every year, 300 brothers and sisters growing up," added Jamey.
Family has always been important to Mr. Whitley.
"I've always thought all these kids we work with are my family," said Whitley.
He's taken his extended family on trips to Disney World and Washington D.C. to learn the history of our country.
"The patriotism that he shows and the love that he has for this country is unbelievable," explained Jamey.
If you speak with anyone who's had the chance to be under the leadership of Mr. Whitley, this is what they'll have to say.
"First thing that comes to my mind is passion, commitment, good person, good christian person," said Eeds.
"If I can be half the man that he is, when I'm said and done, then I feel like I've accomplished something," added Jamey.
As for Mr. Whitley himself, he's an humble man, who simply loves what he does.
"I don't know what I would do if I ever stopped," said Whitley.
Speaking for all of his past band students, we wouldn't know what to do, either, if he ever stepped down from his podium.
It's a place where he makes great music and shapes the lives of even greater people.