People spend years looking for that one place – where they are appreciated and accepted and where their talents are given room to grow. A love of music led 19 Globe High School students to the corner of the more than 100-year-old school, where, unbeknownst to them, they would enter a world full of much more than instruments and sheet music.
When Mississippi born and bred Chris Richardson decided to move west two years ago, he had no idea he would end up in Globe, but as soon as he saw the historic town and learned the realities of the school district’s band program, he knew he had come to the right place.
“I always knew if I ever had the opportunity to be head band director, I want to go somewhere that is rich in history and has a program that was once great and needs to be brought back up,” he said.
That is what Richardson found in the Globe after he spent many years obtaining degrees that would allow him to teach his favorite subject. While working on his bachelor’s degree, he majored in music education and psychology. Then, after teaching high school band for two years, he went to the University of Memphis to earn his master’s in tuba performance and conducting.
Susie Allinson, president of the band booster club, said it is inspiring to watch Richardson conduct, but it’s even better to watch him work with his students.
And that is how the band director believes it should be. Richardson asks himself this question through every aspect of his program: “What can I do to make sure kids leave here the best they can be?”
Richardson talked about the lack of opportunity for many local young people as though it were a hurdle to be overcome rather than an impassable obstacle.
That is why he tries to never let an opportunity pass for exposure to and for his students.
Since August this year, the tiny band has performed the To the Beat of Love Show in numerous festivals and competitions, including the Community Centennial, the Central Arizona Honor Band and at Eastern Arizona College. Band members also auditioned for Arizona All-State Honor Band.
Richardson said the band performed in six marching band competitions last year and seven this year.
“We intend to compete in 10 next year,” he said. So far this school year, the band has taken home three bronzes, three silvers and one gold (the last one was from the state marching band competition).
It’s not all about the beat for the director, however, who is working hard to pass along all of the important tools he learned from his own mentor – a passion for lifelong learning and determination. He said it is also important that students learn how important simple concepts like punctuality and a sense of responsibility.
Although the director has only been with the band for a year and a half, it is clear he has a tremendous amount of affection for the group. He reminisced about the freshmen walking through his door that first day of school last year. “They were all kind of deer in headlights,” he said. Now, they are leaders who are beginning to understand they have a role to play in this community.
“I teach them to always have a solution rather than just be angry about situations,” he said.
How Do They Do It?
Despite the size of the band, which means they have to compete in the Festival Division, Richardson intends to teach each member that size and status have nothing to do with success. That attitude may be the reason those around him refuse to let lack of funding keep them from having the equipment needed to compete.
He regularly reminds his students that they are fully capable of competing at the same level as students from other schools. “Lackluster funds doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a top-notch education.”
Allinson, who has four children who are either currently involved in band or have been in the past, said many of the band’s show props are handmade.
The first color guard in 10 years needed flags, and after the Booster Club researched online, they not only couldn’t find the ones they wanted, but couldn’t afford the ones they found.
One of Richardson’s top goals is to somehow find funding so the district can hire a music teacher at elementary level to help feed students into the program
Allinson’s main goal is to raise funds through the Booster Club to support the band. The Club plans to raise money with Valentine Grams in February. To find out how you can support the Band Booster Club, call Allison at 928-701-1002.
Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.