At a time when busy is the norm, the Wylie community is given the opportunity to pause. It’s odd this opportunity takes place under the lights of Friday night football, but it does. At the end of the game when the helmets come off, after we lock pinkies and sing the school song, you will hear that moment. A Wylie tradition that allows us to pause. The tradition that has withstood the test of time, is dear to generations, and is as important today as when it began over 25 years ago.
Michael Thornton said the tradition of the Pure Gold Band playing the song “It Is Well” after each football game means “something for everyone.” To his late father, Louis Thornton, the band director for Wylie High School from 1989 to 1998, this song was a motto for how he taught his students and interacted with others. “My Dad fell in love with the arrangement and the words,” said Michael. “He felt it brought everyone together.”
Jeff Estes, assistant band director to Thornton, said “It Is Well” was so beloved by the band students that they selected it as the closing song for all performances whether it was a football game or school performance.
Then a turn of events redefined its meaning for a community who already whole-heartedly embraced it. In May of 1997, Carrie Naylor and Sonia Corona, who both graduated from Wylie two days before, lost their lives in a car accident. This heart-breaking event rooted “It Is Well” even deeper into the heart of the Wylie community now as a memorial to Naylor and Corona.
Then in the spring of 1998, Thornton unexpectedly retired due to his battle with cancer. For many band members, they felt this was an end to an era marked with greatness. Under the direction of the new band director, Mike Lunney, the members of the Pure Gold band insisted they continue the tradition of playing “It Is Well”.
During this time, sisters Sabrina and Jennifer Turner (known at JT) served as drum majors; Sabrina served as the first drum major for Lunney and then Jennifer served later from 2001-2002. According to their mother, Alesia Turner, her daughters “loved the tradition and playing the song.”
“They fought so hard to keep it going from when Mr. Thornton was director,” she said.
In May 2004, Sabrina graduated from Texas Tech and married Adam Coffman that July. They had plans to move to Silver Springs for the next chapter of their life. Jennifer, now a sophomore at Texas Tech, had just enough time to help her older sister move before school started. It was then that tragedy again struck the Wylie community. On August 18, all three lost their lives in a car accident on their way to Silver Springs. Yet again, “It Is Well” delves further into the heart of the Wylie community.
Now, we – the Wylie community – have the opportunity to hear “It Is Well” every Friday. It’s a moment to remember. It’s a moment to reflect. It’s a moment worth pausing to acknowledge that it’s our tradition today as much as it was for those before us.
By Kristen Johnson