Music maker: Central band director hits 20 years teaching band students to love the discipline and joy that a music-filled life brings
Nov. 16, 2017
By Denise DuBois
More than 100 students make up the Red Devil Regiment, the Central High School band that entertains the crowd on Friday nights before and during half time during Central High School Red Devils football games. For three weeks during the summer, the musicians are getting ready for Friday night lights by learning music and the halftime show. A show that is meant to entertain, but to also compete against other bands in Fall band competitions.
Students work hard during the week. As football players are gearing up for the game with weight training and drills, band members are putting in sweat equity two and a half hours twice a week to perfect their performance. Each September and October, the band gets the chance to show off their skills and win superior ratings at contests across the South. The traveled to Dothan last year for a competition and received all superior ratings - a first in several years.
“This is the most solid I’ve seen this program be in ten years,” Larry Wells, Central High School’s Band Director, said.
Things don’t end when the field lights go down, though. The Red Devil Regiment continues performing for the Christmas Parade and Night of Lights in Phenix City. Once the spring semester begins, the band transforms from Friday night entertainment to symphonic sounds.
“We participate in Music Performance Assessment (MPA) through the Alabama Bandmasters Association. We are adjudicated on our music performance ability on stage in a concert setting. Throughout the new year we are selecting halftime show theme, arranging music and hosting tryouts for the following season. So, it’s a year round activity that doesn’t end after the last game,” Wells said. Within the last two years, the CHS Symphonic Band received a Superior rating at Alabama Bandmasters for Music Performance Assessment Festival for the first time in a decade.
In March, the Red Devil Regiment will travel to Washington D.C. for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Last year, the band went to Orlando, Fla. and marched in a parade at Universal Studios. Wells said he is hoping for an even bigger trip next year.
After high school, band students hope to continue their education with a music scholarship.
“We have approximately three or four that are offered scholarships each year. Last year we had a junior get offered a band scholarship. The Holy Grail for university music departments is the number of All-State players they have in their programs. That helps with recruiting of other players who want to attend a university program with that level of musicianship,” Wells said. “This year we are averaging 20+ applicants from our school participating in major university sponsored honor bands. This a record for CHS. I had 24 students apply for the Auburn University Marching Honor band alone. Our students are getting to perform elsewhere with equally proficient students from across the southeast.”
Wells said he sees students get most excited about their sense of accomplishment after a performance on the field or on the stage.
“The look of joy on their faces knowing they finally nailed something at practice that took them 25 tries to get right and after 25 more tries. They are satisfied and proud of themselves. They get excited when we as a staff have believed in them, set the bar higher than they’ve ever believed in themselves, dig down deep an go further than they ever thought. I get to mentor and spend more time with these students more than my own children. I get to experience such a short yet formative time in their lives. I have nothing but the fondest memories of my time in band. It shaped and made me be a better person. Band kids are the best kids in the world,” Wells said.
Wells is beginning his 20th year as a music educator. Wells has previously spent seven years serving as Band Director and Electives Department Chairman at South Girard School.
Making music continues to inspire him to teach.
“I was inspired by my high school band director and the love of making music. Music in middle school and high school was the first thing that gave me a supreme rush and joy every time I picked up my instrument. The ability to disappear inside of something that requires the pursuit of perfection, yet, to never really be attained.
“It’s a discipline that wraps all the subjects of Math, Science, English, Literature, History, all in one area of experience. Most importantly, band and music taught me about life and surviving the world. There’s no better teacher of patience, perseverance and grit than music.
“Only with music and band can you do the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again - not just until it’s right, but until you’ve gotten it right so many times that you aren’t going to get it wrong again,” he said.
He resides in Auburn with his wife Julie, daughter Georgia and son Jackson.
Find the band on Facebook by searching Central High School Red Devil Regiment.