Calera schools welcome two new band directors
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
CALERA – Young musicians in Calera have new leadership in their schools as Ryan Murrell and Patrick Darby have taken the directors’ stands at Calera High School and Calera Middle School, respectively.
Murrell and Darby were friends in high school, and when Murrell took the job as CHS band director and heard of an opening at CMS, he called Darby.
Both directors were born in Homewood, but took different paths through college. Murrell studies music education at Jacksonville State University and currently is pursuing his masters degree at the University of Montevallo. Darby earned his degree in music education at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Darby taught at a high school in Montgomery for the past two years. Murrell has been a drum major instructor, judge, marching tech and educator.
Murrell called the CHS band director position his “dream job,” and after hearing the band under the former director, “fell in love with the school and the students.”
“I want to take it to the next level,” Murrell said, noting he hopes to start a jazz band, percussion ensemble and possible a pep band for basketball games.
Currently, the band program combines middle and high schoolers into a large marching band, but the new directors plan on gradually creating two programs.
“I think the big thing is that this program has been one program, and we’re splitting it into two units,” Darby said. “It’ll be challenging logistically, but it’s opening up a lot more opportunity for these kids.”
Murrell said a final goal would include an elementary band program, where younger students would begin to learn to play certain instruments.
“That way, they wouldn’t be blindsided in middle school. You could teach them what band is about,” Murrell said. “It teaches you life skills and gives you leadership opportunities.”
The duo currently is holding band camps to prepare for football season.
“It’s the time of year the band is most exposed,” Murrell said.
Darby recently held rookie camp with CMS seventh graders, and then the rest of the band joined for two weeks of practice from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.
“It’s a challenge, but they know what the final product is in the halftime show,” Darby said.
Both Darby and Murrell said the Calera community is involved with the schools’ band programs.
“This is a band community. They love the band and support it,” Darby said. “The kids are excited and working hard. It’s just got so much opportunity.”