Education

Published on April 18th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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New band director setting the tone, raising the bar at Dutch Fork High School

Pictured: Dutch Fork High School Band Director Paul Clayton

IRMO– When it comes to top high school bands, Midlands schools have walked away with their share of state championships, regional awards and national recognitions.

Paul Clayton is well aware of this fact, and as the new band director at Dutch Fork High School he appears well on his way to continuing that legacy. In March, the Dutch Fork High School Symphonic Band scored the highest rating of “Superior,” performing Grade VI music at the South Carolina Band Director’s Association’s Concert Festival.  The band will hold its spring concert on May 12, giving members of the public a glimpse of the challenging pieces Clayton has implemented since taking the post at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

For students, Clayton’s arrival has brought many opportunities for the band. “Our marching band grew closer this year,” said senior flutist Jessalynn Hawkins, who has been in the band for four years. “We had to work together to make the music what we wanted it to be…and earning the Superior rating was an amazing feeling.”

Kori Hays, a freshman oboe player, added: “With a new transition, sometimes you don’t know what to expect…but there’s been a lot of success and the change has worked well for us.”

Clayton said the symphonic band’s Grade IV Superior rating and having the marching band make it to state finals his first year is just the beginning. In this Q&A, Clayton reveals his goals for the bands and how his passion for music guides the way he teaches and leads.

Q: You’re taking over a band that has earned many awards and accolades over the years. What are your goals for the band and band students?

A: The goal of a band is always to make the students better musicians, but we also want to impact our students and make them better people. There are leadership traits learned from being in a band. Self-motivation, dedication and self-discipline are also taught in band, and I think all of that just naturally translates into what we do and accomplish musically. So, the goal for our students is just to give them traits that will help them be successful in band and in life.

Our goal for the band, as a unit, is to be on the national level. I want us to be in the Grand National Championships, and I want our students to play in the National Concert Band Festival. I understand that it will take some time to get there, but I think we have the talent and the drive to do it.

Q: It seems you are on the right track. What are some of the highlights and big accomplishments of your first year as band director at Dutch Fork High School.

A: We been able to raise the bar for our students. Going into a new band program, I first wanted to see what the students could do. Then I just kept giving them harder material, harder music. And everything I gave them, they accomplished. That led us to earn a “Superior” rating for the first time ever in Grade VI.  It was only their second time ever performing in Grade VI, and first time ever earning a “Superior.” We think it was just that one extra push and the hard work of the students that helped us have a great year.

Q: Where did you get your start in band, and why did you want to become band director of Dutch Fork High School?

A: I graduated from Irmo High School, and I was in the band there when they were at a peak and went to Grand Nationals. I went on to the University of South Carolina and got my bachelor’s in music there, then started my teaching career in a private school. Later, I became an assistant with the bands here and got to know the area here. When I got here it really did just feel like home. It just felt right, and I’m happy to be at Dutch Fork High School.

Q: Band is nearly a year-round activity. What’s next for you and the Dutch Fork High School bands?

A: Next year I want to make a recording and get closer to being recognized on the national level. We’ve already chosen our marching band show, and we’re really excited about it. You know we like to keep it a big secret, but I can tell you that we are raising the bar in that area too.

The Dutch Fork High School Band Spring Concert will be held May 12 at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

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