As the retiring band director entered the Glenview Middle School gym on Monday night, he was greeted by the roar of a standing ovation from former students and more than 300 spectators.
Pausing inside the doorway, he choked back tears and took it all in.
After 34 years as a band director -- 24 at Glenview -- Mr. Weir is retiring. To honor him, band parents sent him off with a musical farewell, a concert performed by former students and six guest conductors.
Organized by Steve Russell, the event reunited 97 band alumni who secretly set up their instruments in the gym during the band's awards ceremony in the basement-level cafeteria.
"He's a great guy that I've seen inspire many people," said Mr. Russell. "My daughter aspires to be a band director because of Mr. Weir. He has about 14 former students that are band directors and many more who went on to major in music."
The surprise concert took two years to organize, Mr. Russell said. He set up a Glenview Middle School alumni page on Facebook and said he was able to pull if off only because Mr. Weir is not on Facebook.
Alumni came from as far away as Michigan and from as far back as 25 years ago. Tanya Briix, a clarinet student from 1990-1993, said she drove six hours to participate.
Three of the guest conductors were former students of Mr. Weir who now are band directors themselves.
"This man created great musicians year after year," said David Maccabbee, the first guest conductor. "Jim, you're brilliant. You'll be missed."
Mr. Weir sat in the front row in quiet appreciation, wiping away occasional tears through the performances and spoken tributes.
Lane Powell wrote an original piece of music, "Transcendence," for the event and directed it during the program. He said he wrote the piece as a tribute to Mr. Weir's retirement, noting the music reflects what takes place in the Glenview band room on a daily basis.
"As you start remembering all the students he's touched, you can't put that into words," Mr. Powell said. "United Township (High School) has a great band program, in part, because of Jim's students from middle school. He's been a great mentor of mine."
Joel Siria was a tuba player in Mr. Weir's 2001 award-winning band. The group placed first in the overall contest at the All State competition, called Super State, at the University of Illinois.
"Mr. Weir guided me to 'see' a song that was being played -- not just the notes, but the story the music was telling our ears," said Mr. Siria. He said Mr. Weir's inspiration led him to also play the tuba at United Township High School and the University of Oklahoma.
"I really enjoy him. I think he's a great teacher," said Karen Deem, whose two children were students of Mr. Weir's. "It will be a great loss for the school."
East Moline superintendent Kristin Humphries said the district has the finest middle school band program anywhere because of the hard work by Mr. Weir.
"He has made a difference in the lives of the children of our community and he will be missed," said Mr. Humphries.
As the concert drew to a close, Mr. Weir was speechless. He stood and gestured his thanks, wiped away more tears, and bowed his head.
"I am truly blessed," he said, as the crowd closed around him.