MILLEDGEVILLE — Baldwin High School band students will be marching to the beat of the drum under the guidance of new leaders this school year.
A Homewood, Ala. native, Ryan Murrell is the new high school band director and fine arts director for the Baldwin County public school system. As he currently pursues his masters degree in music education from Georgia College, Murrell’s passion for music and teaching students stemmed from the influence of his high school band director.
“My high school band director believed music was something I was good at; he was a huge influence. He always pushed his students to be good people at the end of the day. I was good at music and I felt that I could teach students to be good musicians and ultimately good people,” Murrell said. “I’ve been working with kids of various ages since I was 15 years-old through different camps, and I’ve always loved it. I’ve been doing band camps since 2006 here, and there was always something about Baldwin High School’s program I really connected with.”
To help Murrell with advancing the band program and its students is new Assistant Band Director David Cheek. A Macon native, Cheek earned his bachelors degree in music education in 2010 from Georgia College. Using his experience during his student teaching days at Warner Robins High School and performing as a guest soloist for the North Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Cheek is also excited to start his journey with his new Baldwin band family.
“Mr. Murrell will be in charge of the marching band and I’ll be in charge of jazz band. I’m really excited to see this group of students rise up to our expectations and see how high they can climb this year,” Cheek said. “I’ve seen Baldwin perform when I was in high school and in college, and Baldwin was always an excellent group. Now I’m part of it and it’s going to be a great experience.”
The Baldwin band was formerly under the guidance of Clint Raburn for the past 13 years before he transitioned to a full-time creative arts pastor position at Northridge Christian Church.
“Mr. Raburn left us a great foundation for where the band is currently, but I think the band is going to achieve even more. It’s going to come down to the students and for them understanding that this is their program. They’re the ones putting in the hard work and all of the achievements are because of them,” Murrell said. “To be a band student at the high school level, it takes wanting to learn, communication skills and being part of a team. In the band you’re never a benchwarmer, you’re always first string no matter if you’re the weakest or strongest player in the section. If students come with a good attitude, good work ethic and give 110 percent, they’re going to go far in the band.”
With 200 marching band members alone this year, both band directors are striving for the band program to remain well-rounded within the school system as well as the community.
“My biggest push is for people to know we exist and we have a great fine arts department; we excel in band, chorus and theater. Hopefully that will generate more people to come to the city and find it to be a good place to be part of,” Murrell said. “If we have great teachers to help push students along the way, then no matter what they can achieve what they want to achieve.”
Murrell earned a bachelors degree in music education and liberal arts from Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He marched in the Marching Southerners as a trumpet player and later became drum major in 2006. He was also involved in wind ensemble, symphonic band, jazz band, and the university’s brass quintet. He helped found the Mu Iota Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi: Honorary Music Fraternity and became its first chapter president in March 2009. Murrell is married to his best friend and wife, Wendy, and they have two dogs, Calvin and Hattie.
Murrell’s teaching career began in Roanoke, Ala. as a high school interim band director in 2011 before becoming a high school band director in Calera, Ala. last year. In his first year at Calera, the band received numerous superior ratings in marching band competitions, won several parade band competitions, and was selected to represent Alabama in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. in January.
“I model a lot of my teaching styles and structure of the band program here from my previous school. I’m very excited to be with the Baldwin High School family and to continue supporting the arts,” Murrell said. “We have big plans for the band and no matter where we go, we’re going to represent Milledgeville-Baldwin County and the state of Georgia very well.”
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