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Music teacher comes out of retirement to help band director battling leukemia

Published: Tuesday, May 20 2014 11:39 a.m. MDT

Dan Stowell teaches a music class at Murray High School in Murray, Monday, May 19, 2014. Stowell is filling in for teacher Rob Wilson, who is battling leukemia for the second time in five years.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

MURRAY — Cancer is preventing a longtime music teacher at Murray High School from finishing the school year.

A retired music teacher heard about Rob Wilson and what he is going through and offered to teach the remainder of the school year for him.

"I got this phone call in the second week of February saying Rob is back in the hospital again,” Dan Stowell said. “'The cancer is back. He's in the hospital. Would you be willing to come back and spend the rest of the year teaching?'

"Of course,” he replied.

Stowell says it's his respect for Wilson that drives his decision to return. As Murray High's music director, Wilson has spent 20 years inspiring his students into award-winning bands.

“It’s what I love to do,” Stowell said. "People should give back to other people when life’s journey gets a little tough."

Stowell said he met Wilson more than 10 years ago when he started teaching.

“I thought, ‘Wow, they have a good man here. Murray High School is on its way,’” he said.

To fill in for Wilson, Stowell leaves his home in Logan about 4:45 a.m. to make it to jazz band practice. He thought early mornings were a thing of the past, having retired four years ago.

“Retirement is great,” Stowell said, “(but) how many times can I run my dog and go fishing, or go to dinner or whatever, when the thing you really like to do is this?”

His commute is 200 miles round-trip. Monday through Friday, Stowell will be found in the music room at Murray High. He even stays late to offer students extra help.

“(Wilson) is struggling hard enough. He doesn’t need one more problem to face when he comes back this fall,” Stowell said. “He needs to come back to something that can be a secure place for him.”

Wilson is facing the toughest competition of his life: leukemia. His first round with the cancer was in 2009. In February, he had a full-blown relapse.

“It really hurts, just to leave for a day, just to be gone,” Wilson said. “You get a little worried. You just want to leave them in good hands. Dan is a great guy."

Wilson said he was relieved and then concerned about how far Stowell would be traveling each day.

Wilson said, "I did a double take on him and asked, 'Are you sure you want to drive like that?'"

For now, the students will still get the high-level training they're used to, and Wilson will return to a well-run program he cares so much about.

“Of course it was about the kids,” Wilson said. “The only thing that is more important than music is your family and people, and they’re people. They’re wonderful people.”

The Murray High School Band has a concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Wilson said he hopes he feels well enough to attend and support his students.

Email: akewish@deseretnews.com

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