It’s funny how life works out sometimes… Here I am… A Band Director, 16-year Music Educator, Fine Arts Program Administrator… that quit band in the 8th grade. I remember the day that I was put in band class, as a 7th grade student in the Beck Middle School Band, like it was yesterday. My Mom didn’t request it and I didn’t, particularly, care to be in that class as I was more of an artist. The band was under the direction of “Ms. Cox”. A silver haired lady that ran the band like a Navy Seal Team. She was tough. We had about 40 kids in my class and you could hear a pin drop the entire time. Being in that environment wasn’t at the top of my list of how I wanted to start my middle school experience.
I lived in Westside Apartments better known as “The Projects”. At that time, kids from my neighborhood were not into extra curricular activities. They were barely into curricular activities at all. As a result many of the guys from my neighborhood never made it to high school, let alone graduation. But here I was sitting in band class alongside students from mostly middle class backgrounds and learning how to play an instrument. One day Ms. Cox was going down the line asking all of us what instrument we were interested in learning. I was from a single parent home and even at that young age I knew my mother couldn’t afford to purchase an instrument, so as the kids were screaming in excitement.. Trombone!…Saxophone!..Trumpet!…I just sat there. When the director finally got to me, I just shrugged “I don’t know”. Like I didn’t understand the question or know what the instruments were. Even though I understood perfectly.
So Ms. Cox, probably sensing the real reason I refused to answer, just moved on to the next kid. After class she asked me if I’d be interested in playing the tuba. It was actually a white sousaphone made of fiberglass that sat in the back of the instrument storage room. It was a school owned instrument and would not require my mom to make monthly payments so i quickly agreed to play it. As time went on, I would practice at home and get joked on by the other kids for having a “toilet bowl”, as they called it, around my neck. I do admit it must have been a weird sight to see a kid walking through the projects with a sousaphone. Lol
One day we were playing in class and Ms Cox asked Davey, the other tuba player, to play a line, then asked me. After I attempted to play she said how my tone had not improved as well as Davey’s and that he was a better player. I was crushed. I didn’t like being embarrassed in front of the entire class so at the start of my eighth grade year, I quit band. Even though I was no longer in band, I had developed a love for instrumental music so as a freshman I joined the band program at Georgetown High School. I had not played an instrument in over a year, but the weirdest thing happened when I started playing tuba again. I was good. I mean really good… Like I was one of the best tuba players at the school. Then I would audition for district and region band and would always rank high amongst all tuba players in my region of the state. When Mr. Tyrone Singleton became my band director, he molded me into an even better tuba player and lover of instrumental music. He was the best thing that could have happened to a boy from the projects, trying to better himself.
Having a positive male role model around as you’re trying to figure out life is so necessary for a young man. I was very fortunate that he was apart of my life during this very sensitive time. He was a great band director and honorable man and I wanted to be just like him. So I went to the same school he graduated from, South Carolina State University (SCSU) and majored in Music Education. Attending SCSU at that time was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. That experience of learning from legendary professors like Ronald Sarjeant, Tim Hinton, Dr. Barbara Vaughn, and Lameriel Ridges was life changing. Performing with collegiate ensembles such as the SCSU Wind Ensemble and The Marching 101 was a great experience as well. Today, I don’t know where I’d be if band was not apart of my life. Band, or music in general, is a distinct part of who I am. Even this Blog has been dedicated to that part of me. To make it even sweeter, I met my wife while a member of the band at South Carolina State. And to think I almost gave it all up in the 8th grade. Isn’t it funny how life works out sometimes?