After A Strong Start, WV Band Director Is Excited About Year Ahead For His Students
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WATER VALLEY – The annual two-week high school band camp gets underway on July 18, the official one-year mark for Water Valley High School Band Director Wes Brown taking the reins of the band. After a strong start during the previous school year, Brown is excited about the upcoming camp and the months ahead.
The first week the camp, July 18 -22, is for percussion and the color guard band members.
“A lot of the band is going to feel the beat through the percussion. We start them a week early to get comfortable with the music,” he explained. “The color guard adds so much flair, personality and color in the marching show. We also start them a week early to give them individual time and resources to get started.”
The following week the full band will participate in the camp.
“We are going to have a lot of fun. Yes, we are going to do our job, we are going to do the very best we can. But we are also going to have fun with it.”
Brown reflected on his first year as director, his first job after college.
“A lot of our band camp last year was me learning how the students work, and the students learning how I work,” Brown shared. And with a new director, he acknowledged that there would be growing pains.
“But from the start of band camp, once we got comfortable we were able to rock and roll,” Brown added. The students were right behind me, showing support. It showed a lot of maturity and drive from the students.”
The band’s steady improvement was visible (and audible) during the half-time shows at Friday night football games.
“They were continuously growing on the field every single Friday night. Brown added.
It was a challenge too, as almost half of the band had never marched in a full season before – both due to a young band and Covid interruptions in prior years.
Their performance was measured during fall and spring evaluations where bands participate and earn ratings. Brown prefers to call them festivals and explained that bands are evaluated on a scale of one to four. One is the highest, superior, two is excellent, three is good and four is fair.
In first festival, the Northeast Regional hosted by Northeast Mississippi College for marching, the band was rated three.
“Even though we got a three, it was a really good learning experience for the students, especially considering half of them had never done this before,” Brown said.
The very next week they were back at a festival in Grenada and earned a excellent rating, a big improvement.
Brown said the band transitioned to practicing for concert performance as football season came to a close. This included practicing for the Christmas concert.
“This is where the student grew a lot,” Brown added.
Next on the schedule was the 2022 State Band Evaluation in Oxford in late March.
“We left Oxford with a superior rating in concert and an excellent rating in sight reading. Credit those kids for how hard they worked,” Brown continued.
Brown attended Lafayette High School (LHS). He played the trombone until his senior year when he successfully auditioned for the drum major position.
“Up until that point, I had enjoyed being in the band but I couldn’t see myself doing it beyond college. Being a drum major changed that, it got me to thinking this is something I could enjoy,” Brown shared about the opportunity that shaped his life. The role during his senior year allowed him to be involved in more aspects of his band. After graduating from LHS in 2015, he started college at the University of Mississippi to earn a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. Brown was a member of the Ole Miss band and enjoyed every minute of it.
“What people may not realize, high school band is a growing, education process. The shift from high school to college is more performance based,” Brown explained. He graduated in 2019 and continued his education pursuing a master’s degree in Music Education and landed a spot as a graduate assistant (GA) for the Ole Miss band.
“Being a grad assistant shows you the logistical side that you may not get from only being a member,” Brown continued. “That is really important for anyone who wants to be a band director.”
His experience as a GA included helping conduct the band at the lady Rebel basketball games.
“This was a big part of learning when to play, to make sure the band flows with the game,” Brown explained.
He was able to take this experience for directing the Water Valley band during football games.
“It helps add to the atmosphere,” he shared.
How To Support
Although Brown says that the program never turns down donations, one of the best ways to support the students is to attend their events. He said the students are attentive to the football crowd, and who comes to the game to support and encourage them.
“They work really, really hard for each of their performances. When they see people at the games to watch them, it means the world to them,” Brown said. “People coming up to them and saying, ‘Hey, y’all did a good job today.’”
Other events that the public can attend include their performance dates, Christmas or spring concerts, or even routine practices.
Brown admitted that his first year was intimidating.
“But I had a lot of good support,” he added about his mentors who provided input throughout the year – David Wilson, Kevin Cole and Jeff West.
“They were more than willing to help, they are a big reason why the band was able to have such a strong year. Those people were put in my path by God to make things more successful than I could have done on my own.”