Pirate News: Bittersweet: Mr. T, Hart’s music man, set to retire.

April 14, 2021

File photo, Feb. 2020.

Pirate News: Bittersweet: Mr. T, Hart’s music man, set to retire.

Pirate News is a presentation of Hart Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

HART — For 33 years, John Taranko has been Hart Public Schools’ music man. Taranko, a 1983 graduate of Ludington High School, became the Hart band director immediately after earning his bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights University. At the end of the school year, Mr. T — as he is affectionately called by his students and co-workers — is retiring. 

“This is very bittersweet,” Taranko said. “Somebody once told me a long time ago that one day you just realize that it’s time to retire. This is my time. I love the kids and will miss them more than anything. But, I’m ready for the next stage.” 

For Taranko, the “kids” aren’t just students. They are his family. 

“Every year when I get a new batch of sixth graders, I tell them that they are not just in band. They are now part of my family. The band director is a in a unique position in a school, especially a smaller school like Hart. I don’t just have a student for nine months. I often will have the same student for six years.” 

Superintendent Mark Platt said Taranko’s measurement of success can be witnessed at any parade where the Hart High School band participates. 

“If you have ever had a chance to walk in a parade with Mr. T. you would swear you were walking with a celebrity,” Platt said. “The parade route is lined with former students and parents who are affectionately yelling ’T, hey Mr. T’. and without fail that same person that we all enjoy seeing greets each and every one of them with his contagious smile and a friendly wave.

“Just as Mr. T. became a legendary household name in America following the TV show ‘The A-Team,’, our Mr. T. is a legendary household name whose former students are telling their children and grandchildren, ‘I had him as a teacher he is awesome’.  On the side, they may lean over and tell them of his very different hairdo back then…..the infamous mullet.  While the hairdo has changed, the parent’s and students’ love for Mr. T. has not changed, it has only grown and influenced multiple generations and lives.”

During Taranko’s tenure at Hart, he has seen the building of a new middle school, which included the addition of an auditorium. He has also seen the recent renovations of the high school, which included a new band room.

“The people of the Hart school district have been very generous to understand the needs of creating a quality learning environment,” Taranko said. “I’ve been very blessed to be able to work in such a supportive community.” 

Taranko said he plans to continue to be involved in music. He is involved in several area bands including ensembles at West Shore Community College and the Scottville Clown Band (he is a 38-year life member of the Clown Band). 

“I plan on working with area bands and judge at music festivals,” he said. “But, most importantly, I plan on spending time with my family and getting some much needed things done around our house.” 

Leaving won’t be easy though. 

“I hope that I’ve been able to leave the community with a better appreciation for music and have had a positive impact on my students’ lives. It’s been a wild, awesome ride… it’s been fantastic, actually.” 

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