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to have the school board and school personnel that are supportive of the band program and of the arts in general because the need is there for some investment in the program. We realized quickly that there were more kids coming up than we had instruments, and a lot of times, kids can’t afford them, so there’s more children that don’t have an instrument. We just wanted to go ahead and get some school instruments that when we have kids coming up year after year, we can provide them with that.”
Among the instruments purchased were 13 trumpets, 4 tubas, 7 trombones, and more, along with some concert instruments, such as the baritone saxophone and bass clarinet. “Mr. Bullard talked with us back in the summer or spring of last year about some of the instruments that they had that were aging. Some of them were tearing up, and we paid to get several old instruments back up and running. Whenever he asked about a couple of tubas or something – I had no idea how much a tuba costs; I do now – but we are giving our students hopefully the best to be able to per- form at halftime on Fri day nights or to be able to go to band competitions and festivals to be able to compete and participate,” Waller remarked. “With everything that we are doing, we are asking ourselves what we can do to provide opportunities for our kids.”
According to Bullard, Waller, and Toombs County High School Principal Marissa Morris, the purchase of these instruments has not only grown the band, but has also allowed some students who would be unable to participate in the band because of financial issues to be included.
“Anytime you read something research based, information is going to tell you that kids need to be involved with something after school and a part of something, and they don’t often have the means and will shut down because they do not have the resources or can’t afford it,” Morris shared. “But then they join band or auxiliary, and they blossom in that environment and they thrive. So, I just think the more we can add, the better.”
She continued, “As principal, I think it has been a tremendous asset to be able to invest into those programs and those kids – I think that is also a testament not only to these teachers, but to Mr. Waller and the Board for allowing us to have that opportunity.
Often times, I think peo ple focus on certain areas – whether it be athletics, academics, etc. – but a lot of those kids that want those pathways are really invested in those programs and its amazing the things that those kids can accomplish and do, and their self confidence when you watch them thrive within those programs.”
Morris claimed that the investment in not only the band, but also the auxiliary, had been very advantageous for the school, helping them to reach students who did not find interest in popular paths, such as agriculture. “It’s been so good to allow fine arts to expand because we used to just have band and art – that was it,” she emphasized.
“We started years ago with band coming up [to the high school] in 8th grade, and they would perform with the Red- coats on Friday nights, and the middle school would perform at their football games. Then, with chorus – they have a program that starts in elementary school – so we added a teacher to that as well once they showed that they were committed. So, they have been able to blend some of that — they share some kids – even with one act, drama, and art classes.”
Both Bullard and Morris spoke of the amount of support that the fine arts program had been receiving from parents and the outside community, as a recent holiday band concert was not only packed with an audience, but also able to be held outside of the school facilities because of a scheduling conflict.
“It is incredible to see how these parents support their kids, and our community is supportive as well. We’ve got churches and different facilities that allow us to use their locations when we cannot use our auditorium,” Morris said. “People have really reached out in any way that they can help for those programs just like they do the other programs, and I think that’s what it’s about to be a part of a family, a part of this community, and a part of this school system. That’s too everyone’s credit for helping – not just here at the high school.”
Bullard, who is currently in his 12th year as the Toombs County Marching Redcoat Band Director, shared that this support thrives on the enthusiasm of the stu- dents. He commented, “We have a lot of kids that we just want to get involved in music and in band. I’m glad to be able to give them those high quality opportunities, and it’s paying off – we’ve had one of our students graduate and now he’s in the University of Georgia band, so we hope to continue that momentum we’ve got of growing the band into the future.”
Currently, the marching band has almost 100 members, including the auxiliary, while the school’s concert band has around 50 musicians and the jazz band is composed of around 20 students. Along with the students that take advantage of the school’s provided resources, several musicians that play smaller instruments, such as clarinet and flute, have their own instruments, which further allows growth within the band. “As principal, I think it has been a tremendous asset to be able to invest into those programs and those kids – I think that is also a testament not only to these teachers, but to Mr. Waller and the Board for allowing us to have that opportunity.
Often time,s, I think peo ple focus on certain areas – whether it be athletics, academics, etc. – but a lot of those kids that want those pathways are really invested in those programs and its amazing the things that those kids can accomplish and do, and their self confidence when you watch them thrive within those programs,” Morris concluded.
“Bill Benton and the Boosters used to say that they wanted to look out for everyone, from the starting quarterback all the way down to the last person on the band line – to me, that’s what’s important. Through our band and our performing arts program, we can invest in our students to be successful in whatever avenue they want to take to be successful – whether it be in athletics, band, performing arts, or other extracurricular activities. We have been able to invest into those students to be successful,” Waller added. “I just want to thank Mr. Bullard for his continued diligence and hard work with our band and continuing to grow the program over the years.”