The green and yellow jerseys on the field of the Kane County Cougars all gave a loud cheer after the rookie catcher just pegged a potential base stealer late in the game. The catcher realized at that moment that his instincts are what got him there. He also realized that the dream of playing professional baseball wasn’t going to last, but he wasn’t worried because he had other plans.
“It was realizing that I could do it, not the thought of being there that I remember the most,” Hank Vaughn said with a smirk on his face as though he knew something we all didn’t.
Vaughn was the catcher of that single A ball club in Illinois, but these days he an be found waving his arms about in a wild manor as he leads the Castleton State College marching band to different sporting events around campus.
“It was an experience, but I knew it wouldn’t last,” Vaughn said of his baseball past.
Vaughn began teaching at Castleton in 2008 and hasn’t regretted the decision to come here.
After growing up in the Chicago area and attending Southern Illinois University, he knew it was time to move on.
Vaughn said that there was an open position in the music department at Castleton and it drew him right in.
“The first person I met when I got here was Dave Wolk and we had a shared vision for the band,” said Vaughn. “There was dedication to what we wanted and I knew I was going to get anything I needed.”
Glen Giles, the man responsible for hiring Vaughn, said he knew immediately that hiring Vaughn was the right decision.
“There was one person for the job, and he was it,” said Giles.
Vaughn, who had built a band from nothing before, was the right man for the job and all agree he has done nothing short of making Giles a genius for hiring him.
“I love music and sports and this job was a perfect way to combine the both of them,” Vaughn said.
Growing up in Illinois, Vaughn had the support of his stepfather in pursuing the dream they both shared — playing the saxophone.
“He never really got to pursue his dream of playing the sax because of his father, but he was very supportive of me. He was always there for me,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn played the sax from sixth grade through college, where he met his wife Becky.
Not quite the love at first site story, Vaughn recalls the day he met his future wife, at band practice of all places.
“She told me I was supposed to be five yards that way,” Vaughn said laughingly. “She will deny it till this day, but I’m pretty sure those are the first words she said to me.”
Vaughn and Becky dated throughout their college careers and got married not too long after.
“He hasn’t changed much since then. He is still the same fun loving guy that I met in college,” Becky said in a loving tone.
The laid back Vaughn seems to have the same mellow attitude at school as he does at home, even with the stress of his two children, Katharine, 2, and newborn son Gavin.
“They keep us busy. It’s a lot of fun,” said Vaughn smiling at the thought of them.
When Vaughn is home, he enjoys sharing time with his kids and his wife, whether playing his favorite game on his Xbox, which is Batman at this moment, or just being around them.
“We Netflix the games and right now Batman is all that is on the television,” said Becky laughing, hinting that Vaughn was in the background shaking his head.
Back in his office, Vaughn sits with his hands behind his head talking about how he came to love jazz music.
“The Glen Miller Band really got me into the whole jazz thing,” Vaughn said.
He said he tries to imitate the sounds of Stan Getz or Lester Young, a kind of smooth and mellow sound. As a tenor player, he said these sounds seem to fit his personality as well as his own playing style.
Vaughn is a very modest man and he’s all about helping others succeed and share in his passion.
“Anybody can play the music, but to perform it to the highest level you have to feel it,” said Vaughn.
This is what he said he tries to get students her at Castleton to realize.
He thinks it is very important that students pick their own style by playing around and listening to many different styles. Vaughn was pushed by his step-father to pick what he wanted and he would like to do the same here.
In his office, above his desk hangs a couple pictures that sum up what Vaughn is all about, but one in particular carries deep meaning for him.
The verse of the Navy Hymn is framed and when asked why, he paused and gazed at the picture with a reflective glare in his eyes.
“My grandfather had a major impact on me, and this was a way to show it,” said Vaughn, adding that his grandfather served in the Navy.
Vaughn played the Navy Hymn as his final piece at a concert in North Central College, where he graduated.
“My grandfather died when I was a sophomore and never got to see me teach and this was a little bit of a dedication,” Vaughn said. “It was my personal connection with the music.”
“The beauty of being a music teacher is that everything is always different no matter how long you do it,” Vaughn said.
And he plans to do it for a while.
“I can see myself at 65 going out there and doing the same thing I’m doing now,” said Vaughn saying that wealth would be nice, but you have to love what you do.
Vaughn then sits back in his chair as if ready to finish a reflective discussion.
After a pause he said, “I want to give the students the experience I had back there,” pointing to a picture behind him.
The picture was his college band — and all band members had huge smiles on their faces.