Vincent John Polce
September 14, 1944 - December 14, 2011
(News article) DEFIANCE -- The hard-charging, award-winning Defiance High School band director whose students performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade twice and at college bowl games and in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Vincent Polce died Wednesday of lung cancer in James Cancer Hospital, Columbus. He was 67.
Mr. Polce most recently taught part time at Defiance College and directed the Defiance College Community Band. He devised programs for band concerts and wrote the arrangements the band performed. At his last concert in November he was not able to conduct, but "his presence was there back behind the stage. He was able to sit in a wheelchair and listen to it," his wife, Donna, said. "It meant a lot [to him], and it meant a lot to band members to be able to greet him."
Since his 2004 retirement from Defiance High, where he was band director 36 years, he also taught music education at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Just last week he was speaking about new music for bands with Thomas Groth, a longtime friend, executive director of the Packard Band in Warren, Ohio, and former band director at Boardman High School.
"He turned out a lot of fine students through the years," said Mr. Groth, a master's degree classmate at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. "His marching bands were exciting and just great to watch and listen to. His concert bands were very musical.
"He really cared about the students, about what they were doing, how they were getting on, and prepared them for life. He was a master of picking a program [to highlight a band's strengths]," Mr. Groth said.
Mr. Polce early on sought to widen the Defiance marching band's recognition. By 1971, it had received several state honors. He tried to interest an NFL team in allowing the band to play. The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed, and the 102-member band played for a national television audience in November, 1971.
The Defiance High marching band played in the 1976 Macy's parade in New York and the 1981 Tournament of Roses parade. By its second appearance in the Pasadena, Calif., spectacle, in 1999, the band had grown to 250 members -- a quarter of the high school's enrollment. The marching band played in the Thanksgiving parade in Detroit and the holiday parade in Chicago and in the parades of the Orange, Citrus, and Peach bowls.
"He had a lot of drive and determination," his wife said. "He was very structured. [Band members] knew what the expectations were."
He believed that band was the only chance for some students to feel comfortable, as though they belonged.
"Some kids feel they don't fit in anywhere, that they're not good at anything," Mr. Polce told The Blade in 1999. "The band is for everybody. You don't have to be a great musician. If they have a sense of pride, a feeling they fit in, that's important."
He was on the band music selection and curriculum committees of the Ohio Music Education Association, which presented him its Outstanding Music Educator of the Year Award. He was inducted into the Ohio Band Directors Hall of Fame.
He was born Sept. 14, 1944, in Dover, Ohio, to Lena and George Polce. He played trombone in the band at New Philadelphia High School, which his father directed.
He received a bachelor's degree in 1966 from Bowling Green State University, a master's degree in 1970 from VanderCook College of Music, and a doctorate of music education in 1992 from Ohio State University.
He still practiced trombone nightly until about two months ago, his wife said.
Surviving are his wife, Donna, whom he married June 25, 1999; stepdaughters, Lisa Becher and Jackie Frejkowski; stepson, Erik Olsson; brother, George Polce, and three granddaughters.
Visitation will be from 2 - 8 pm Friday in the Hanenkrath-Clevenger-Schaffer Funeral Home, Defiance, with a vigil service at 8 pm Friday and from 9 - 10:30 am Saturday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 am Saturday in St. Mary Catholic Church, Defiance, where he was a member.
The family suggests tributes to the church, Defiance High School Band Boosters, Defiance College Community Band, or the American Cancer Society.
Vincent was a graduate assistant director of the marching band in 1984.