What made you decide to become a teacher?
Well, I think that I had an interest in teaching from a young age, but I really didn't follow through on it until my early 20s. I started working for JTM Corporation as a bag boy in high school, working my way up to a management position, and really enjoyed what I was doing but asked myself, "Do you want to be doing this when you're 40?" Ironically, one of my bag boys was Joaquin Richards, who is now my principal at Smiths Station.
I realized that one of the reasons that I had been successful was because of the leadership skills I had learned as a band student, and I wanted to be able to share that with kids, so I returned to school at Troy. My last year at JTM I made approximately $20,000. My first year as band director I made $20,001, so I earned a college degree to increase my salary by one dollar. Thankfully, we've gotten a few raises since that time.
When does band camp start?
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This morning at 7 a.m. EDT! We'll work 7 a.m. EDT until 1 p.m. EDT for two weeks, and school starts the following Monday. We used to run two-a-days outside and work all day for a week, but I got tired of fighting the late afternoon pop-up thundershowers that are prevalent around here this time of year, so we tried this and it has been very successful.
The first year, temperatures were hovering around triple digits, and I overheard some kids talking during a water break, and one of them stated, "Maybe that #%$& Courson isn't as stupid as I thought he was." I was never a morning person, but at this point in my life I wake up between 5:30 and 6 every day -- without an alarm.
After 27 years of band camps before school starts, does it ever get old?
It's really hard to explain. Honestly, I have to work myself up to it throughout the spring and early part of the summer, but by the Fourth of July, I begin to anticipate camp with excitement.
We're going to have a great show this fall, entitled "An Eclectic Journey through the Psychedelic Sixties," featuring Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In by The Fifth Dimension, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by The Beatles, and Knights in White Satin by the Moody Blues.
We'll have an end-of-camp preview show in Panther Stadium on Friday, July 31 at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited, and admission is free.
As high school marching bands have gotten smaller, how have you kept students interested at Smiths Station?
My college band director at Troy, Dr. Johnny Long, always said that you spell band F - U - N. When I was their age, kids really didn't have a great deal of choices to make with extracurricular activities, but with so many different choices available now, the advent of year-round sports and travel ball, you have to make it fun, but also convince them that you get out of something what you put into it and the more that you put into it, the more success you're going to achieve.
We've won countless awards and recognitions over the years, but nothing describes the euphoria that you feel when you perform at your best and know that you've left EVERYTHING you had on the field. That keeps the kids coming back, allowing them to make memories that they retain for a lifetime.
What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
T.C. Britton Field at Panther Stadium on a Friday night in the fall. Smiths Station has grown exponentially in the last 25 years after the opening of the North Bypass, but these folks still pack the stadium to the gills for Friday night football.
They're there to support THEIR football team, band, cheerleaders, Pantherettes, and the JROTC Color Guard that presents the colors for the National Anthem. Most weeks it is standing room only. The concept of Friday Night Lights used to be pretty commonplace throughout the South, but it is definitely still alive in Smiths Station.