Music, love and education all make for a solid foundation in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mensch. Tom and Heather Mensch have become more than just the school’s band directors, but in a word inspirational.
The couple met June 27, 1995 at the Brevard Music Center of Brevard, North Carolina. At the time Heather was 21 and played Bass trombone while Tom was 23 and played tenor trombone in the same section of orchestra. The camp they attended was a six-week camp where students were around each other for at least 18 hours a day. Mr. Mensch met her and knew she was the one within the first week and, they started dating three weeks into the camp.
“He kind of chased me around a little bit,” said Mrs. Mensch.
At the music camp, high schoolers had curfews, but since they were in college they didn’t have one. They had to wait until all of their performances and rehearsals were done. When the curfew hit they could leave. On their first date they attended a movie with friends then separated and went out to eat.
” The only thing open at 1 a.m. was the Waffle House so we went to the Waffle House on our first date and had pancakes and sat and talked,” said Mrs. Mensch.
Mr mensch made it clear that for the entire courtship he knew she was the one.
“I kind of gave in about halfway through the camp because we were engaged six weeks later, yes it was very quick,” said Mrs. Mensch
“We were just sitting on the couch and I said will you marry me?” laughed Mr. Mensch.
He said that that was one of the things he loved about her, what’s important to her is the long-term aspect and not all of the theatrics.
Mr. Mensch went to Penn State University in central Pennsylvania while Mrs. Mensch went to University of Kentucky in Lexington, a nine-hour long distance relationship.
They visited each other one weekend a month.
“It was before of course video conferencing and all that other stuff even before IM chat and before cell phones where you could have a texting conversation,” said Mensch “we would go into our computer labs and write out short e-mails and then wait 20 seconds for an email to come back,” he laughed.
Mr. and Mrs. Mensch were married Aug. 10, 1996 in Washington D.C. and have been together ever since.
Mr. Mensch was the first to have a job at TJC while Mrs. Mensch was doing some adjunct teaching at other schools. One day while helping Mr. Mensch at a game the former president Dr. Bill Crowe pointed out Heather out and asked one of the department chairs who she was. He replied that she was the wife of our band Director Mr. Mensch and Dr. Crowe decided to offer her a job after seeing her working so hard.
Students often wonder how they get along so well.
“Sometimes I wonder if they do have a bad day, how do they go home with it? That’s really the only thing I can think of that would be a problem working with my spouse,” said Joshua Sawnigan, sophomore music major.
Mr. Mensch explained how the first year was a little rocky in the marriage.
“I don’t care how good of a marriage you have, there is going to be a time where someone says something stupid or you get into an argument or you step on somebody else’s toes and you know forgiveness has got to be a part of your marriage and your working environment to,” said Mr. Mensch.
They made a covenant to make sure that before they fall asleep they don’t fall asleep angry.
“Deal with it. Be a man be a woman and deal with it don’t call somebody else about the problem you have with the other person,” said Mr. Mensch.
Some students wonder just how do they make it look so easy?
“I think it would get kind of stressful being there to
gether all the time, but I don’t know. They do it so well together, like it just makes it look easy,” said Alyssa Pitcock, sophomore music major.
Mr. Mensch explained, “A lot of people say, ‘oh I couldn’t stand to work with my spouse’ and I’m thinking then why did you get married? Because the bottom line is you are working together with your spouse.”
” Knowing the time that we put into this job, I think our relationship would hurt if one of us didn’t work here, because I don’t think we would see each other very much. So I think it’s good that we work here together, and then we run the same schedule,” said Mrs. Mensch.
Knowing each day that students are watching they make sure to keep a professional relationship at school. Having respect for their students is top priority.
The Mensch’s are sure not to show any PDA and try to set an example for the eyes watching them. They know perfectly well how to manage being co-workers and marriage partners.
“They’re not inappropriate, they are professional when they are working their job said David Brock band student at TJC. And I’m sure they act like a married couple when they are at home, which in my opinion, is how it should be done.”
Students admire how they maintain a healthy relationship while being around each other for so long.
” We are around each other enough that it’s comfortable, but I have my jazz stuff to do and he has the whole band program to run, I don’t really work for him, but I work with him,” said Mrs. Mensch.
Every one made note of how they act like best friends, teasing one another in effort to keep the band students’ morale up when they are feeling down.
“Everyday is funny, I think that’s why we work well together because we entertain each other,” said Mrs. Mensch.
The couple keeps each another grounded by being truthful with one another and making sure that they have each other’s back.
An ongoing tradition that the Menschs have is mentoring and guiding students every year at the beginning of band camp.
“I don’t know if it’s more funny or cool but they do a talk at the beginning of band camp every year and Mrs. Mensch takes the girls and Mr. Mensch takes the guys. It’s almost like a parent telling you what to do in college to succeed, and like who you need to watch out for…but it’s cool because it shows how much they care,” Pitcock laughed.
There are a number of things the couple has in common with one another like their love for music and one another.
” There are a lot of similarities. For one, naturally, they play the same instrument but they are both very talented, so they hear and notice the same things and will tell you to fix the same things. It’s like if Mr. Mensch isn’t there, Mrs. Mensch can cover and she’ll cover just as about as well as he can and vice versa,” said McGregor.
The band students witness these similarities every day but also the differences that make them a unique couple.
“Mr. mensch is a workaholic so when ever he needs something done, he’s really aggressive with it. Mrs. Mensch, she’ll get it done at about the same pace…it’s not their work ethic, it’s just you can tell which one is more aggressive when it comes to getting work done,” said Swanigan.
All of the students agreed that the Mensch’s really compliment each other.
” If one of them lacks something, then the other one is right there to fill that gap and they are just such a complementary pair of people that they work really great,” said Pitcock.
Students explain what it feels like to be around them.
“Just watching them, I would have to assume that they have a very strong and good marriage,” said McGregor.
Swanigan agrees, “they’re one of the strongest couples I’ve seen, or that I have met.”