With his retirement set at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, senior professor of music at Cedarville Mike DiCuirci departs with lasting contributions to the program, the University’s Pep Band and the Jazz Band.
DiCuirci has been at Cedarville University for 37 years of his 45-year teaching career. He taught as a band director in primary education before coming to Cedarville.
DiCuirci grew up in Ossining, New York, north of New York City, where he began playing the trumpet in fourth grade and participated in several bands and ensembles throughout his education.
When he was a junior in high school, he decided to be a band director, he said.
DiCuirci attended the University of Michigan on a scholarship, 732 miles from home. His first job after college was directing the ensembles of the Lakeland School District in New York for two years.
DiCuirci then moved back to Michigan where he served as a band director of a school for six years. There, he also met his wife and became a Christian.
DiCuirci said he was convicted for the first time at a Dave Boyer concert where the gospel was presented. Soon after, he and his wife attended a Family Life Radio seminar where DiCuirci said the preacher led him and his wife to Christ.
“I had a problem with riotous living,” DiCuirci said, “and God delivered me.”
DiCuirci said 2 Corinthians 5:17 is his favorite verse: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold the new has come.”
After eight years of teaching in public schools, DiCuirci performed music at Gull Lake Bible Conference in 1979. Paul Dixon, president of Cedarville University at the time, was one of the conference speakers.
DiCuirci, who was then unfamiliar with Cedarville, said he had come to hear the other conference speaker from Grace Theological Seminary.
“I thought God was calling me to study to be a preacher at Grace Theological Seminary,” DiCuirci said. “He had other plans for me.”
Dixon approached DiCuirci that day, he said, and asked about DiCuirci’s interest in a job at Cedarville.
“Well,” DiCuirci said, “I have never heard of (Cedarville) before.”
Dixon asked for a resume, DiCuirci said.
So I took out a sharpie pen, jotted a bunch of stuff down on a table napkin and handed it to him,” DiCuirci said, “never thinking anything would come of it.
Dixon said he called then-music-department chair David Matson that night. Matson followed up and went through an interviewing process with DiCuirci shortly thereafter.
“Within a week, our house had sold, and we were on our way to Cedarville,” DiCuirci said. “And here I am 37 years later just about ready to hang it up after a 45-year career as a band director.”
Vision for music
DiCuirci said he went with a little fear and trepidation into teaching at the college level.
But in 37 years at Cedarville, DiCuirci has formed the Pep Band, now under the direction of Ed Supplee, and the Jazz Band, formerly known as Lab Band. He serves as director of the Jazz and Symphonic Bands in addition to teaching classes in music education.
When DiCuirci came to Cedarville, Dixon said he was just the person the university needed.
“We were in need of someone to lead our band, to bring their gifts to the music department and the institution that he brought,” Dixon said.
When DiCuirci came to Cedarville, Dixon said the school most likely played a recording of the national anthem at basketball games instead of having a band perform it, as the Pep Band now does.
“It was awful,” Dixon said.
Dixon said DiCuirci formed the Pep Band with energy and vision, which allowed the band to grow to about 80 to 100 people.
“It was people from the community that would come just to hear the Pep Band at basketball games, and it so changed the dynamic of the basketball game at Cedarville,” Dixon said. “The visiting teams would love to come.”
Having known DiCuirci for several years, Dixon said DiCuirci is more than a musician.
“What impressed me was not only his giftedness in music,” Dixon said, “but he was such a godly man and committed to his family and was really serious about winning people to Christ. … Evangelism was his passion.”
Musician as a teacher
DiCuirci said, as a teacher, he strives to be a good musician and performer so that he is not hypocritical in his practice.
At Dixon’s request, DiCuirci began leading, performing and coordinating chapel music.
“Mike just has a terrific platform presence,” Dixon said. “For most of my tenure, 20-plus years, Mike was the key platform guy for chapel and special conferences.”
Roy Wilkinson, DiCuirci’s high school band director, helped prepare DiCuirci for teaching by giving him opportunities to direct and lead ensembles, DiCuirci said.
“I really like helping to put the light on and help students grow,” DiCuirci said.
One such student is saxophonist Jonathan Lyons, a junior music education major.
“He is one of the most committed-to-education people I’ve ever met,” Lyons said.
Lyons also serves as the student conductor for Cedarville’s Symphonic Band, which DiCuirci directs.
“He is always encouraging me to work through the music,” Lyons said. “His stock phrase is ‘progress over perfection.’”
DiCuirci said there are many things he will miss about teaching at Cedarville.
Here at Cedarville I have had the opportunity to preach, to go out and share my testimony with music,” he said.
“I have had the opportunity to lead a lot of people to Christ. I’ve developed a very good concert band and a very good jazz band.”
DiCuirci said he does not have any specific plans for retirement. But, he said he knows a few things for sure.
“I want to play my horn more,” he said. “I want to do some writing. I want to see more of my family. I want to sleep in, and I’m going to let things come to me rather than go out and seek things right now.
“The pattern of my life has always been (to be) involved, so I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”
Mike DiCuirci will be sharing his testimony during Cedarville Univeristy’s chapel service Nov. 18. at 10 a.m.
A farewell concert will be held April 17, 2016 in the DMC.
Amy Radwanski is a junior journalism and broadcasting/digital media double major and digital editor for Cedars. She is pursuing a career in broadcast performance with her studies.