Over 200 former students of Mark Borden’s came to celebrate at his retirement party/concert this past weekend, a testament to the profound impact the beloved HF-L music teacher had on his students. Photo by Donna MacKenzie

It might have been three years in the making but the celebration of Mark Borden’s retirement truly hit all the right notes this past weekend.

The beloved Honeoye Falls-Lima High School instrumental teacher retired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but Borden never got to conduct his students in the final concert of the year because the COVID pandemic shut down the schools in March with remote learning continuing through the end of that school year.

Borden had planned a retirement/graduation party for Memorial Day weekend 2020 so as many of his former students could attend as possible. Those plans for that reunion, called Bordo’s Grad party: The Final Concert, were shelved for that year with the hopes that they could come to fruition in 2021. With COVID still raging, the celebration was postponed again to 2022 but there were still some concerns last year so it was postponed a third time. Late last fall, however, Borden and the six members of his planning committee (former students Hannah Apthorpe, Allison (Forstrom) Fowler, Sarah (Celona) Jamison, Wendy Matthews, Chuck Smith and Kristin (Peters) Stiner) decided that Memorial Day Weekend 2023 was a go.

In a testament to how much of an impact Borden had on his students in his 36-year career, 130 of them were on stage for The Final Concert on Sunday, May 28 at the HF-L District Auditorium. Many more joined Borden’s family, former colleagues and community members in a nearly full house auditorium. The concert was the capstone to a jam-packed weekend for the former students. There was a weekend welcome event at the Okay Beer Company on Friday, May 26. On Saturday, May 27, an Alumni Jazz Ensemble rehearsal took place in the morning, followed by a Meet & Greet for those students not playing in the jazz ensemble or band. A rehearsal for the band, a “Legacy Grab Bag” event and a pizza party took place in the afternoon and evening. There was a fun event at Rotary Park on Sunday morning before a meet and warmup for the band members one hour prior to the concert. The concert was followed by a food truck rodeo in the Middle School’s south parking lot.

The Final Concert, as the concert was billed featured 130 former students in the Alumni Band which played five pieces while the Alumni Jazz Ensemble played three pieces. The earliest alumni in the band or jazz ensemble came from the class of 1988 at HF-L while there were four members from the Class of 2020. There were even seven members of the Class of 2021 (juniors at the time of Borden’s retirement), six members from the Class of 2022 (sophomores at the time of Borden’s retirement) and four who will graduate later this month in the Class of 2023 (freshmen at the time of Borden’s retirement) in the band attesting to Borden’s impact on them although they might have had him for band only one, two or three years.

In addition to former HF-L students in attendance, there were three members from Borden’s first teaching stop: a two-year stint at Cincinnatus which is south of Syracuse. Former students came from 21 states and the District of Columbia; some of whom had not played in the band but who had played girls volleyball at HF-L when Borden coached that sport in the 1990s. In all, over 200 of his former students (volleyball players, band students, performers from the school’s musicals) came to gather and celebrate his career.

“This has been humbling and tremendously honoring and heartwarming,” Borden said after the concert. His emotions sometimes got the better of him in his thank yous and remarks during the concert, remarking at one point “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”

©2024 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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