New Salisbury band director looks to rebuild
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — There’s been a revolving door of band directors passing through Salisbury High School during recent years, but Sir Davis said that stops now.
The Livingstone College graduate took the reins last November after Tyler Howe left the school just a few months into he job to earn his master’s degree.
Davis said he wants to build “foundation and tradition” within the band program and that’s not going to happen unless he stays put.
“When you have somebody different every year it makes students and parents iffy about whether they should invest their time in the program,” he said. “I want to show that I’m dedicated and in it for the long haul.”
The marching band is small at about 40 members, but Davis said that won’t hold them back.
“We’re small in number, but big in heart,” he said. “Our sound is definitely strong, it will speak for us.”
Staying in Salisbury
Davis said he originally had plans to head back to his hometown of Flint, Mich. after completing his music education degree in December 2010, but opted to stay in North Carolina instead.
During college, he volunteered to work with Salisbury High’s low brass section to gain some teaching experience, but hadn’t imagined he’d be leading the band.
Davis ended up working as a music teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system after graduating, but when he heard about the open spot at Salisbury High he jumped at the opportunity to return to Rowan County.
He said the fact that so many directors had left Salisbury in recent years actually drew him to the position.
“The same kind of thing happened to me my senior year of high school and I felt like everything I had worked so hard for was just gone,” Davis said. “I told myself if I was ever a band director I would stick with the kids.”
Davis said he wants to be a role model and show the students that he’s not there just to earn a paycheck.
“When you have a teacher who really cares it means something to the students,” he said.
The idea of being a music educator came to Davis as a seventh-grade tuba player.
“Watching my band director and her compassion for the students and passion for the music, that really struck something in me,” he said. “From that point on I wanted to be a music teacher.”
When Davis arrived at Salisbury High last November, he said the students seemed weary after the loss of yet another director.
“They had lost their luster,” he said. “But when we were preparing for our winter concert you could see the glow in their faces again, you could tell they were rejuvenated.”
Working to rebuild
Davis said the current marching band already has the foundation to be great.
And according to his research, greatness is something the school’s bands of yesteryear were known for.
I have to remind these guys we’re sitting on a legacy even though we are starting the rebuilding process now,” he said.
That’s why the band will perform a legends-themed show this year with music from the past, present and future arranged by Davis.
“By arranging the music myself instead of purchasing it, I can write for Salisbury High, I can personalized it and add that Hornet touch,” he said. “A lot of the music you can purchase is for a big instrumentation, this way I can make sure the music is full.”
This year’s band shirts have “hard work + dedication = legends” printed across the back to remind the students the formula for success.
“I want them to know that’s what it’s going to take in order for them to leave their mark,” he said.
Davis said he’ll also work to grow the program by teaming up with Knox Middle band director Sam Kyzer and Overton Elementary’s Anthony Johnson.
“We’ll be collaborating to build an open bridge from Overton to Knox to Salisbury high,” he said. “The biggest thing we want to do is to make sure that musical excellence continues, we’re trying to create this circle so we can be a force to be reckoned with.”
Last year, Davis spent his planing period at Knox working with both the band and choir. He also volunteered during the Overton band camp this summer.
Making some changes
Since his arrival, Davis has changed the marching style of the band to high stepping.
“I wanted to do something different to broaden the horizons of the students and also implement some of the different styles in drilling,” he said. “They were willing and eager to make the change.”
Junior Zach Tucker, who will serve as a drum major, said the change has definitely been positive.
“It’s better for the band,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get into the groove now.”
Davis said the high stepping gives the band more of a presence.
“When we march over to the practice field or to the parking lots it’s like ‘Oh wow,’” he said. “That’s the type of feeling that we’re trying to bring not only to Salisbury High, but also to the community, to let people know we are alive and well over here.”
Senior Ilisha Housch, who will also serve as drum major, said the band will be sporting a different look this season. They’ll have capes, marching boots and spats.
“I hope everyone likes our new look and sound,” she said.
Davis said he made Tucker and Housch drum majors because of their musicianship and strong leadership skills.
“They both have great spirits,” he said. “I don’t take that away from the rest of the band, but they really step up to the plate.”
What to expect
Housch and Tucker are looking forward to a successful year.
“We have a new attitude, a new appreciation for band, new music, new faces and new styles,” Tucker said. “We are definitely ready to show people what we can do.”
Housch said she’d like to see people come out and support the band during games and competitions.
They’ll be at both away and home games. The band will also take part in North Rowan’s Caviler Classic, the Food Lion Classic at East Rowan and the Phillip O. Berry H.S. Competition in Charlotte.
Davis said when the band takes the field for their first performance Friday during the home football game against East Rowan, people can expect to see the “total package.”
“It will be a true football experience where you have a great football team and right along with that you have a great band that is really keeping the crowd motivated,” he said. “Every Friday night you’re going to get a band that’s ready and willing to bring that excitement, to bring that drive, to bring that ambition.
“They are going to bring that intensity that people look forward to.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.