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Long-time Ferriday band director leaves behind legacy

FERRIDAY — When Karena McClain thinks back to her time at Ferriday High School, it’s not only associated with the sights and sounds of the marching band but with the man behind the band, Carl Dangerfield.

“It was always a dream of mine to be a part of the Ferriday High School Marching Band because of all the work (Dangerfield) did to make it so great,” McClain, who graduated in 1996, said. “By the time I was old enough to know about the band, it was something everyone in town wanted to see and be a part of on Friday nights.

“And it was all because of him.”

The long-time band director, coach and educator, died Saturday at St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles. He was 62 years old.

After more than 30 years and a fleet of trophies as the high school band director, Dangerfield retired in 2003 — but not without leaving behind a legacy at the school.

Fred Butcher, who served as principal at the high school for 24 years, said Dangerfield literally built the marching band program from the ground up.

“When he came to Ferriday there were probably about 20 kids in the band with no uniforms or anything,” Butcher said. “After about four years, he had built it up to 80 to 100 kids with two sets of band uniforms and a variety of routines.

“Basically, when I went to Ferriday High School, it was struggling academically, athletically and musically, and I attribute a lot of the changes to him.”

Part of Dangerfield’s success with the marching band program, Butcher said, went hand in hand with the academic standards he set for his students.

“The students and parents knew that if the kids didn’t perform academically then they wouldn’t be performing for the band,” Butcher said. “When it came to education and dealing with kids, he was one of the best.”

Dangerfield’s high academic expectations for all of his students were something McClain said always made him stand apart from her other teachers.

“He was the type of person who always believed in you no matter what,” McClain said. “I fondly remember one time when he had to get on to me for my grades in the classroom, and you can believe that was the last time he had to tell me about it.”

But it was also Dangerfield’s interest in students’ lives outside of the band room that really made him special, McClain said.

“There were plenty of father-and-daughter or father-and-son talks he had with all the students that some people weren’t getting at home,” McClain said. “I often look back at my band years and realized that he, along with my parents, really made me who I am today.”

Douglas Taylor, who played drums in the marching band and graduated from the high school in 1998, also said Dangerfield played a significant role in his life.

“Anytime you ever needed him, he was always there,” Taylor said. “I looked at him like a father figure.”

And even though McClain and Taylor said they will miss Dangerfield, they also said his memory will live on through his hard work and dedication to the band.

“Songs will come on the radio and, to this day, when I hear them I can’t think of anybody but him,” Taylor said. “It’s a big loss, not only for me, but for all of Ferriday.”