Thank you for everything, Jason.
In late March, Michigan Drum Corps Scholarship Fund cofounder and board member Jason Fritz passed away after a motorcycle accident.
Jason was a pillar of the West Michigan band community. He touched the lives of every student, parent, and fellow educator who met him. He inspired us with his joyous approach to work, his empathy for all students, his patient mentorship of fellow educators, and most importantly, his fundamental decency. It’s a testament to his character that he reached such high stature in the community but never seemed to acknowledge it. He only focused on lifting up those around him.
Jason was the fourth and final cofounder to join the MI Drum Corps Fund team. The other three of us met him while we were marching drum corps. Young and impressionable, there is no better time in life to have met Jason Fritz. We all learned from him, became friends, and had the pleasure of teaching with him. The impact he had on who we are as people and as professionals is immeasurable. Were it not for his influence, we may not have had the idea to start a scholarship fund in the first place.
But we did have the idea. As we were drawing up initial plans and bylaws, we quickly realized that we were out of our depth. We felt that we could manage finances and day-to-day operations, but we needed someone with experience, expertise, and most importantly wisdom. We drew up a board position that will always be occupied by an active educator in the community to help make sure students are the core of everything we do and that we don’t forget about the important role band directors serve in our community. In short, we needed Jason Fritz.
When we approached him about the position he signed on before we could finish our elevator pitch. He saw an opportunity to lift students up and make the drum corps experience more accessible, so he didn’t think twice. Just as he had become a pillar in the Michigan band community, he quickly became a pillar of the Michigan Drum Corps Scholarship Fund.
When pillars like that fall, it rocks the entire foundation. As an organization we are shaken and grieving just like the wider Michigan community. We don’t entirely know where to go from here. But we do know that Jason’s influence will carry us forward, and that the best way to honor him is to deepen our focus of helping Michigan students and the Michigan band community. As long as we do, some part of Jason will live through us as individuals and through the Michigan Drum Corps Scholarship Fund.