The Newberry High Blue Brigade Marching Band is stepping to the beat of a new drum as well as instructor.
The high school welcomed Akeem Downs as its new director who is enthused about music and teaching music to young musicians.
Downs says, “Band kids are a special breed. We bond together just for the sake of the amount of time we spend together. I get to know band kids more as humans than students. I learn what they like, what gets on their nerves, and how to make them smile.”
He continues by describing the family like atmosphere created, “We do all kinds of activities to help us become a family. It melts my heart when I see students cheering each other up when one is having a bad day. When the students begin to care for one another, then they don’t want to disappoint one another. That’s when work ethic and teamwork blossoms, working for common goals.”
This year, the band’s theme came from a friend of Downs who composed the music especially for the high school.
Joshual Hinkel is the arranger for the Seattle Cascades Drum and Bugle Corp and he created a theme about forces of nature which include wind, water and fire.
The students began practicing three weeks before school started for about eight hours a day. Now they practice a few days a week totaling about seven hours a week.
Band requires a commitment, but Downs believes this helps the students in other aspects of life and school.
Throughout the band experience, Downs explains that students learn about time management and keeping the band room space in order and well-kept motioning towards responsibility.
Downs says he stresses the importance of being on time to everything and believes that through lessons learned in band, that students can carry those lessons throughout life.
He believes that the students who are involved in band or even other extracurricular areas have an advantage when it comes to academics.
“Sometimes it’s because students are more involved in school,” explains Downs, who adds that students show pride in their school work.
While students are there to help each other, along with the aid of Downs, parents are also very instrumental in helping out the regiment.
“Parents are vital to the success of a band program. The parents help fund raise for our students. The band parent organization helps me concentrate and focus more on teaching band so that I don’t have to spend so much time and energy on the many other things band directors do, like fund raising and uniforms. There are a group of parents that chaperon every band trip and work in concessions for Friday night games to raise money for the band,” explains Downs.
The band parent organization, also known as the Blue Brigade, meets the third Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Downs says that they appreciate any support from the community they can get.
In fact, Downs says that hopefully a campaign will start to buy new uniforms since theirs are at least seven years old.
In addition to outfits, there are instruments which Downs says that students may use the school’s, rent or buy their own.
The marching band is looking forward to showing off their skills during the home football games which are like practice time for them as they prepare for competitions.
In fact, the annual Lorraine Paris competition will be held Sept. 22 at Newberry High’s football field. While there are plenty of other competitions around the state, this one is in honor of the late band director from the high school who is like a legacy at the high school.
For more information about Newberry High’s band or to help out, contact Downs at 321-2621.