PHS band alumni march on in college
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
PELHAM—If you tune your TV to college football this weekend, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a Pelham High School band alum marching with their college. The Tower of Power has a long history of placing students in marching bands at institutions across the country.
There are 38 PHS band alums currently in college bands, including 15 in the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band, seven in the Auburn University Marching Band, five in Mississippi State’s Famous Maroon Band, four in UAB’s Marching Blazers, and more in band programs at University of North Alabama, Troy University, Jacksonville State University, University of North Florida and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
“I think our (program) is one that puts a very high percentage (of students) in college bands,” PHS Director of Bands Justin Ward said. “People need to understand band is a great way for students to pay for college.”
At least 22 of the 38 PHS graduates marching in college received scholarships, Ward said.
College band programs heavily recruit students from across the country, and PHS helps to facilitate the recruiting process by bringing in college band directors to “start to build that relationship” and “clinic our band and prepare us for competition,” Ward said.
“We really like to try to bring them in,” Ward said, noting directors from Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama have all visited the Tower of Power band. “It really opens the doors for our students to get scholarships and play at some of these primetime bands.”
The transition from marching in high school to marching in college is relatively smooth for former PHS band members.
“If it weren’t for the Pelham band, I never would have been exposed to this,” freshman in the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band and five-year member of the PHS tower of Power band Austin Roberts said. “(The PHS band) is run very similarly to the program here at Alabama.”
“There is a lot of bleed over between Auburn, Alabama and what we’re doing,” Ward said. “They practice about the same, the big difference is the travel and the performance.”
College bands often perform pregame and halftime shows in front of more than 100,000 spectators and travel to games across the country.
“They go to all the home games, they travel to all the away games and bowl games,” Ward said. “It’s a really great opportunity to see the country.”
Ward and Roberts also stressed band sets students up for success in college by providing structure and a group of friends.
“When you go into band, you immediately have 400 people you have a bond with.” Ward said. “It’s an incredible way to make friends… and an incredible way to get used to college.”
“I have to keep my focus, it really forces me to work out my schedule. I have to know exactly when I’m going to do things,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t give up band for anything.”