Beloved Ms. Engel – The Next Chapter

The most universally loved teacher on campus is leaving us next year and we’re all crying.


Mei Dotzler, Reporter

If you asked any student well-versed in the Sahuaro music department, 9 times out of 10 they would say their favorite teacher is Ms. Engel. I’ve never even taken a music class in my almost four years here, and yet I’ve heard an overwhelming amount of adoration and praise for Ms. Engel – that’s how vast her influence reaches.

“In the airport waiting to board our flight to San Francisco a few years ago. It was an amazing trip!”

Being the band director means being a mentor to hundreds of kids daily, inevitably forming a special and rare connection with all of them. Because of the extended time they’ve spent together, Sahauro Band has become a family, doing an activity that requires working together every single day. And ultimately the heartbeat of that family is Hillary Engel.

“I spend more time with my students than most teachers, and that is an aspect of being a high school band director that I am going to miss. A lot. And yes, my decision to leave Sahuaro was incredibly difficult,” she says, “but this felt like the right time for my family and I.”

Acting as the sole band director comes with a massive amount of pressure and when you’re thinking about “What’s next?”, sometimes you just need to let things run its course. Being less than a mile away from her house, Ms. Engel is going to be Doolen Middle School’s next band, guitar, and drum teacher. She’s also initiating a pilot program that’s bringing music into the 6th grade science classes, allowing students to explore music in a completely new way. As it’s the right choice for her family, Doolen is incredibly lucky.

“A group of students and I with composer Frank Ticheli. He came and worked with the Green Valley Concert Band and had a workshop with local high school students.”

Reflecting back on the legacy she’s leaving behind, Ms. Engel candidly shared some of her most memorable moments at Sahuaro. “I have so many memories from my time at Sahuaro! Getting the audience to play the part of the horse in Sleigh Ride each December, watching my drum major turn around triumphantly as the sprinklers on the football field went off and band kids ran in every direction at the end of rehearsal a few years ago, singing Bohemian Rhapsody before concerts to pump everyone up, taking a rehearsal off at the request of the band to pick up trash around campus, being evacuated from our hotel on our San Francisco trip because of a fire, etc. etc… The list just goes on and on. But they all involve little moments that seemed so insignificant at the time and have turned out to be the major plot points in this past chapter of my life. Those little moments are the ones that matter the most, you know?”

Because of the infinite power of music to unite all kinds of different people together, Ms. Engel has been truly touched by everyone she’s gotten the pleasure to know over the years at Sahuaro. “The people. Without a doubt I will miss the people the most. I teach and perform music for the sake of the music, but also for the people that I meet along the way. It doesn’t matter what city or country I am playing or teaching in, I’m able to connect with everyone in that moment through music. I am so thankful to everyone that I’ve met at Sahuaro because of the music.”

“Last day of band camp years ago! I think this is our senior class’ freshman year 🙂”

“I have some general ideas of what my future will be like, but I don’t really want to solidify anything,” she says. “I do know two truths about my future, though. It will involve a lot of travel and a lot of music with hopefully a lot of overlap between the two.”

It’s teachers like Ms. Engel that students willfully remember when they enter adulthood and eventually tell their children about when feeling high school nostalgia. It’s teachers like Mrs. Engel that stay with you forever, and that already seems very apparent, judging by the obvious pillars of respect all band students carry for her.

Farewell Ms. Engel! Congratulations on the success you’ve found at Sahuaro and the imminent success you’ll find in this next chapter. No one will ever quite be able to replace you.