Sewell named new BHS band director

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

With more than 20 years of music education under his belt and 10 years spent assisting Paschal Ward, James Sewell has been named the new band director.

Sewell is a graduate of Troy University, where he graduated with a bachelors and Masters degree in music education.

When Ward announced his retirement, Sewell knew he wanted to be a part of the legacy that Ward had helped begin. High school principal, Roy Mathews along with the help of the band booster club opened up for applications and interviews, where Superintendent Tim Cochran said Sewell was the clear winner.

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Sewell said he wasn’t convinced he would be the clear winner.

“I never took the application and interview for granted,” he said. “I went in there knowing I would have to earn it; I never once thought it would be mine.”

When Sewell was named the winner, he said he felt a mixture of excitement but also a total understanding of what was about to happen. He knew Ward had basically built the program from nothing and all of the talent and work was being transferred into his hands.

Sewell has full intentions of honoring what Ward started. He never wants the students to forget the traditions Ward began; he just wants to expand on them.

Sewell said he plans to keep the overall style of music the same and plans to continue taking major trips with the band and hopefully play at more parades when they are invited. However, he does want to expand on what the band does in the community.

“We want to be here for the community because they have always been here for us,” Sewell said.

Sewell would love for the band to play a bigger part in community festivals and events. In addition, he hopes to work with the school in planning ways the band can help with school spirit activities and in other leadership roles.

The biggest change he would like to make is to bring back something that he saw when he first moved here: the brown bag. The brown bag would allow the band to perform in the gazebo in Willis Park during lunch hour, so people in the area can bring a blanket and a brown bag lunch and listen to music, while eating their lunch. This would not only allow for community involvement, but also help the band expand their repertoire.

Sewell hopes to meet with city officials this summer to learn how else they can serve the community in ways other than this.

While that is the biggest change Sewell wants to make, he plans to expand the number of ensembles inside the program over the years. He thinks this will increase the performance opportunities in the future.

“If the community watches closely, they’ll see slight changes here and there,” Sewell said.

When not working with the high school, Sewell plans to make his primary focus on the two middle school band programs. He wants to increase their resources, increase the support to learn music and increase the overall opportunities for musical instruction. He has seen first hand the potential the middle school band students have when given the right tools.

“I want us to give students the best we can give them,” Sewell said. “I want them to have every opportunity to learn and improve, not just in music but in citizenship as well.”

In order to help make this possible, Sewell plans to spend his planning periods at one of the two middle schools every day.

Sewell recognizes he has big shoes to fill and looks forward to the challenge in front of him. He said he knows it will be a great challenge, but thinks he is ready. He cannot wait to begin building on and complimenting the program Ward started many years ago.

Cochran agreed that Sewell will have a high level of expectations to maintain, but knows Sewell is his own man and will work to make sure everything is a success.

“We hate to see Paschal go,” Cochran said. “Sewell has some big shoes to fill, but we wish him nothing but the best; he has been training for this for a while.”