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Ex-Hersey band director remembered
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald correspondent

Hersey band director Don Caneva appears with Arthur Fiedler, of the Boston Pops Orchestra, whom he brought in as a guest conductor.

 

"Doc" Severinsen, left, best known for his regular gig on the "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," plays in 1978 with the Hersey High School band under the direction of Don Caneva, right.

 

Don Caneva conducts the Hersey High band in the 1971-72 school year.

 

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Published: 9/11/2008 12:06 AM

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In the late 1960s and '70s, a familiar battle cry formed in the band room at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights:

"GEEVUM," which meant "give 'em hell" in Hawaiian.

Hersey band alumni still use the affectionate term, but last week they used it to reminisce about the school's first band director who gave them their rallying cry.

Don Caneva, who started the band program in 1968 and held the position for 10 years, died Aug. 29 in San Diego, after a long illness. He was 72.

"What Don accomplished in high school music remains unsurpassed even today," says Peter Titre, Hersey's former principal who hired Mr. Caneva. "In his 10 years at Hersey, his band brought home over 100 first place awards."

Mr. Caneva organized the band program at Hersey after teaching in Lockport for 12 years. He earned his bachelor's degree in music education at De Paul University and master of arts degree at the University of Hawaii.

Under Mr. Caneva's direction, the Hersey band was the first Illinois band in 50 years to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. It also marched in the Cotton Bowl parade in Dallas, in the Orange Bowl parade in Miami and for the College All-Star game in Chicago.

Mr. Caneva also invited celebrity guest conductors and performance artists to work with Hersey students. Over the years, they ranged from Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra to "Doc" Severinsen, trumpet player from NBC's "Tonight Show."

"Don established excellence in the Hersey band program from the day the school opened," says Scott Casagrande, current Hersey band director.

"I feel a responsibility to build upon Don's legacy and to continue those expectations he established." Joe DeFano, who was band president in 1971, still cherishes a photo of him presenting a Mount Prospect fire chief hat to Fiedler when he conducted the band, and he vividly remembers all of the practicing that went into that performance.

"What a great lesson in life it was at a young age to be pushed to your limits," DeFano says. "I have used some of his motivating skills through my sales career and prominently displayed the words we learned from Don: 'Results, Not Excuses.'"

Mr. Caneva left Hersey in 1978 to accept a job as a band music editor for a publishing company in San Diego. One year later he formed the "World of Music" festivals, which took him to bands, orchestras and choirs throughout the country.

"He used music as a tool to create leaders, and three decades later we are still sharing stories of his impact," says Bob Kaspar, who graduated from Hersey in 1976. "Amazing."

Mr. Caneva's former students will gather at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at Bobby Q's restaurant, 1279 N. Rand Road in Arlington Heights.