Eric McNiel can still picture Shane Eichthaler’s infectious smile.
“The kid lit up the room,” said the Decatur High School band director. “He was always smiling and was always so respectful.”
Tragically, over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2007, Eichthaler, a trumpet player in the DHS band, was killed along with his mother, Candace Richardson, in an accident on U.S. 380 just east of Decatur. Eichthaler and his brother were on the way to Denton for private music lessons.
“It was a tough day,” McNiel recalls. “We came back the next day, and every pastor in town was here. We took this room for anyone that needed to talk. The kids were heartbroken.”
Five years after his life was cut short, Eichthaler’s memory lives on in music. The Decatur Eagle Marching Band has dedicated part of its halftime show – “Nightscape” – to him. The show’s third movement is a piece called “Shimmering Light,” written specifically for Eichthaler. It includes a trumpet solo.
Composer John Meehan of the Concord Blue Devils Drum Corps wrote the piece for him.
“We paid a guy to commission a piece in his memory,” McNiel said. “It starts slow and pretty and speeds up. By the time we finish it’s at 172 beats per minute.
“It’s about hope and the dawn of a new day. [Former Decatur director] Doug [Fulwood] thought it’d be a great way to honor him. It’s a great piece of music.”
The piece was played in a concert a few years ago.
“We had 10 to 15 graduates that came back and played,” McNiel recalls. “It was very inspirational.”
This will be the first time the band has included it in their show. McNiel said they performed it for a small gathering of people two weeks ago.
“It was really emotional,” he said. “I told them the back story.”
The band plans to include it in their show this Friday and march to it next week.
Many band members knew Eichthaler through siblings that were part of the program at the time. Guilherme Ribeiro’s sister, Zyanya, was the drumline captain.
“It’s an honor to play and be able to express ourselves through that piece,” Ribeiro said. “It’s how we all remember him and how he’ll always be in our hearts.”
Ricky Samano, who barely knew Eichthaler but can vividly recall his ever-present smile, added: “He was a great man and to be able to honor his memory is amazing.”
Along with being a talented musician, Eichthaler was also active in theater, participating in several productions since elementary school. Decatur theater arts teacher Lance Morse knew him well and is grateful for what the Eagle band is doing.
“I love it,” he said. “It takes something so tragic and offers a really nice sense of closure and homage to a great kid.”