Band members hold car parade, say farewell to Darrell Parrish

Indrani Maitra, Copy Editor

Courtesy of Tracy Pesikoff

As their cars snaked around the block, students crouched inside their vehicles in simmering anticipation, holding massive instruments and homemade posters. When Band Director Darrell Parrish walked out of his home at 6 p.m. to a group of cheering students, Band Parent Liaison Tracy Pesikoff had one thought—“This is so much better than cake.”  

On April 15, members of the intermediate band and wind ensembles participated in a car parade as a final farewell to Parrish, who plans to retire after 26 years at St. John’s.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Pesikoff had “grandiose” ambitions for a celebration when she heard about Parrish’s retirement, including a cake party with alumni attendees. School closures and quarantine guidelines prevented these ideas from coming to fruition. 

“It was magical thinking, [believing] that we could pull off serving cake with gloves,” Pesikoff said.

While demoralizing at first, this unfortunate turn of fate did not stop Pesikoff from organizing a proper goodbye for Parrish. 

“He has touched so many people with his kindness, so many families, and absolutely he touched mine,“ Pesikoff said. “I would have been crushed if we couldn’t do anything for him.” 

Parrish taught both of Pesikoff’s children, sophomore Lily and Jonah (’19), which added another emotional dimension to her endeavors. Providing an opportunity to celebrate his legacy was especially important to her. 

She developed the idea for a car parade during their final in-person Fine Arts meeting on March 10, before the government instituted 6 feet social distancing guidelines. Pesikoff wanted something that was accessible and easy in order to promote a large turn-out that adhered to social distancing guidelines. Still, the number of people that attended was unprecedented. 

“I was just so happy and overwhelmed with the amount of people that showed up and how they showed up,” Pesikoff said. “They brought their spirit for him.”

The Upper School Jazz Band played “Feliz Navidad,” a cultural institution in the St. John’s band community. Choosing the song was a “no-brainer” for Pesikoff, and she “had faith in the musical gods that the performance would turn out amazing.”

“Music and pets are one of the only things keeping us together nowadays,” Pesikoff said. “Music is keeping humanity and civility afloat during this time, and we had to bring that beauty to his home.” 

The car parade provided students the rare opportunity for human interaction and connection with the fine arts community. 

“It was so heartwarming that so many people came to celebrate Mr. Parrish and his final band concert even under these difficult circumstances,” junior Nat Larsen said. “Band concerts are always something I work towards and look forward to, so I was really happy to be able to do something and have that community connection with the Wind Ensemble.” 

Even in the midst of the pandemic, this effort encapsulated the profound impact Parrish has had on the families of the school, according to Pesikoff. Parrish reached out to her to express his unbridled gratitude and how surprised and “blessed” he was to have touched so many students. 

“He is an icon,” Pesikoff said. “He will be sorely missed.”