Hayfield mourns loss of band director; Dennis Conroy, 54, dies suddenly at his home

Published 8:31 am Thursday, December 7, 2017

On Wednesday, the Hayfield School District website carried four words, but they were powerful: “We will miss you.”

No name was needed; in this small Dodge County town, everyone knew what it meant. The town and especially its schools, were mourning the sudden death of its band director, Dennis Conroy, 54.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s office contacted the school early Wednesday.

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According to Superintendent Gregg Slaathaug,  Conroy’s death was sudden and he died at his home.

Conroy was seen only the night before, directing the school’s pep band at a high school basketball game. He directed both junior and senior high concert bands, fifth-grade beginning band, sixth-grade intermediate band, senior high marching band, senior high pep band and senior high jazz ensemble.

Slaathaug said Conroy had worked in the district for 23 years and that his wife, Sally, was a speech pathologist in the district.

“He was passionate about his program,” Slaathaug said, adding that his own children, who had only been in the district since fall, “had the utmost respect for him.”

“He was great at what he did,” he said.

School officials set up areas in the building where students could go to find support from 11 counselors, including four local pastors, professionals from other schools, and local school counselors and staff.

The “comfort zones” and counseling will remain at least through the week, Slaathaug said.

He added he was impressed by the number of local districts who contacted the school to express their sympathy, as well as offer any help they could provide, including the districts’ band directors.

It was a tough day, he said, but overall, “I think the kids are doing well and we’re trying to keep our parents in the loop, too.” Some of the parents, in fact, had Conroy as a band director when they were in school, he added.

Several in this area may have known Conroy as one of the directors of TubaChristmas in Austin. He was one of three to four directors who would take turns both playing with and directing the group.