Bond between Family, school tied to band award
June 21, 2013
According to those who knew him, his sense of humor brought smiles to faces and his passion for music education changed young lives -- traits that now, after his death, have forever tied him to Mayfield Intermediate School in Manassas, Va.
Robert Streitfield, a former Navy chief petty officer musician and Mayfield band director, died of cancer in February. To honor his contributions to the school, Mayfield created the annual Robert Streitfield Memorial Award for Excellence in Band, an honor recognizing exceptional band students. His wife, Army National Guard Headquarters Force Management Division Sgt. Maj. Lynette Streitfield, presented the first two awards to two students during the school's principal awards ceremony June 12.
"It's a tremendous honor that they want to basically immortalize him and his memory," Lynette said.
Robert, a saxophone player in the multiple Navy bands before retiring in 1995, was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly after becoming Mayfield's band director in 2007. Despite his ailment, Robert was a good teacher to his fifth and sixth grade students, according to Zachary Cousins, Mayfield Intermediate School assistant principal.
"He had a great sense of humor and he had a knack for understanding students," Cousins said. "The fifth grade is the first time students get to participate in organized band class. He took the random noise students started off playing with and turned it into pure music within their first year."
The Streitfield Family developed a personal connection with Mayfield's faculty, staff and students during Robert's battle with cancer. Teachers donated 360 hours of leave time to help Robert take time off from work to receive cancer treatment, according to Lynette. The school also allowed Lynette to substitute for Robert when he needed to take time off. Lynette said she was so touched by the school's assistance that she presented officials with the flag she flew over Iraq during a deployment. After nearly six years of battling cancer, Robert passed away earlier this year. The school hosted his memorial service and then honored him by creating the Robert Streitfield Memorial Award for Excellence in Band. To select award winners, Mayfield's leaders gathered the entire music program staff and judged students based on criteria Robert's would have approved of, according to Jeff Abt, Mayfield Intermediate School principal. The criteria included academic, music and character performance.
"It's really about being the best band person you could be and being a good citizen. He was big on citizenship," Abt said. "We miss Bob terribly. He had a great sense of humor and the kids really just appreciated him and miss him."
Lynette called the winning students, Krish Patel and Ethan Saari, deserving award recipients.
"It's an honor to present the award," Lynette said. "The groundwork was laid down and they rose to the occasion."
Lynette hopes Robert continues to inspire Mayfield students.
"Hopefully, this motivates band students to want to receive the award because of the positive legacy he left at the school," Lynette said. "It was fun to watch my husband conduct concerts with the students."
The ceremony was bittersweet for Michaela Streitfield, Robert and Lynette's daughter, who said she's happy to see her father honored but wishes he was still here.
"I can still picture him walking down the hallways," said Michaela, who used to help Robert organize instruments, inventory and clean his office during school days. "It's definitely amazing that the school would honor him. Everyone here has been so welcoming … they're truly our Family."