Students, parents, alumni, grandparents, faculty and staff crammed into Crane Country Day School’s Cate Hall to honor music teacher Toni Mackie’s 28-year tenure at Crane.

Mackie joined Crane in 1985 and quickly became a beloved favorite. Over the past 12 years, she has developed the school’s marimba xylophone program to include three performance groups: Vibes!, Mallet Masters and Chops. Vibes!, comprised of seventh- and eighth-graders, performs in local schools and festivals, most recently at the 2013 I Madonnari festival at the Santa Barbara Mission.

In Wednesday’s assembly, the Vibes! group delivered a stellar surprise xylophone performance of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine,” which included students on the violin, guitar and bass. Students had arranged and practiced the piece for weeks without Mackie’s knowledge.

Eighth-grader Colin Browne gave an inspiring tribute to Mackie, stating that “Mrs. Mackie is the most influential teacher I’ve ever had. … A great teacher deserves a great farewell.”

Browne and the other Vibes! members had been sending out letters and raising funds to purchase Mackie her very own xylophone, which was presented to her on stage.

“This is the most beautiful instrument I’ve ever seen,” she said, “and it even has mallet holders!”

Four Crane teachers performed a tribute song to the tune of Woody Guthrie’s “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,” with lyrics changed to follow Mackie’s tenure at the school. The whole auditorium joined in to sing along with the chorus. Folk music sing-a-longs are one of the many lasting impressions Mackie will leave with the school.

A spirited standing ovation met Mackie as she said her final words on stage.

“I bought myself a balloon that says, ‘Class of 2013,’” she said. “It’s kind of like I am finally graduating from Crane, but it took me a very long time.”

Mackie will be dearly missed, but her musical legacy at Crane will live on!

— Julia Davis is an admissions associate for Crane Country Day School.