Maplesville High School band carries on despite setbacksBy Emily Beckett Published 6:37pm Thursday, September 19, 2013
Maplesville High School’s Red Devil Band has experienced changes in the last year that have raised concerns about its future.
The loss of a full-time band director at the end of last school year was a major source of concern for parents of students in the band, and the small number of students in the band became even smaller after some graduated, moved away or stopped participating.
Even so, efforts are underway to keep the band going and strengthen its membership and presence on the MHS campus.
This summer before the new school year started, the Chilton County Board of Education approved former band director Mike Corley as temporary band director at MHS, an hourly paid position in which he works with students during after-school practices.
“I’ve been going out there anywhere from three to four days a week since school started,” Corley said. “I’m going to stay there as long as I can. I’m hoping they’ll be able to get the program in good enough shape that they’ll be able to get someone for next fall.”
Before retiring five years ago, Corley said he was a band director for 40 years and helped start bands at Thorsby, Isabella and Maplesville.
About 12 students comprise the MHS band, which is considered an extracurricular activity since a full-time director would be needed to have a band class during the regular school day.
“It’s not a class where they’re getting a grade,” MHS Principal Steven Hunter said. “Right now, it’s really being treated as an extra-curricular activity.”
Hunter said he hopes to find someone who is qualified to teach and serve as band director at the school.
“I would love to have a teacher who is a band director and then teaches another class,” Hunter said. “That would be very handy as far as fitting it into your allotted units and all. We’re going to look, and when it comes time to look for hiring new units, that’s one of the first things that you look for—somebody that can do that.”
Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden said a full-time band director would have to have a teaching certificate, but as long as a board employee (such as Corley) is present at an event, the band may perform.
“We’re hopeful we can get somebody regular to help build the band back up,” Hayden said.
Corley said this year’s band has one senior, several ninth graders and a group of sixth graders.
“The kids are great,” Corley said. “Attendance is very good. They’re meeting after school and not getting any credit for it. They’re hanging with it.”
Corley said half of the students are beginners in band, and the other six have anywhere from one to five years of experience in band. As a result, not enough students are comfortable enough with reading the music to march as they play, so the band’s halftime performances at football games might not happen until next year.
“We’re just trying to maintain the playing abilities of the ones who have done it and develop the playing abilities of the others,” Corley said. “I’m going to move them as fast as I can but try to teach the beginners all the basics and fundamentals as we go to. I hope to get them to where they can perform next year.”
Corley’s plans are to prepare students to play at a few pep rallies and events during second semester.
“They’re all excited about that,” Corley said. “I think that will help morale. We’re looking forward to that.”
Corley added that he hopes to recruit more students for the band.
John Hollis, parent of ninth-grade band student Nathaniel Hollis, said the diminishing number of students participating in the band is a problem.
“Our biggest concern is with students dropping out of band at Maplesville, they’re going to close the band program,” Hollis said. “We went from a program that had 20–25 to nine [students].”
Hollis and other parents have raised the bulk of the band’s funding used for bus fuel, drivers and uniforms.
The school board pays supplements for band directors at all county schools, Hayden said.
Hunter and Hayden confirmed that the band would have access to the new multipurpose facility on the MHS campus for practices and equipment storage.
“I think it’s a very bright future,” Corley said. “They’re just going to have to be patient this year. I think a year or two down the road, the band will be bigger and better than it’s ever been.”