Editorâs note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring local school marching band programs and their preparation for halftime shows they will play during football season.
By STEVEN NALLEY
Starkville Academy doesnât have the biggest band in town, but Amanda Harfst doesnât mind.
One of the bandâs few seniors, Harfst plays trumpet, and she says the band feels like family. She said she hasnât known the bandâs new director Duane Warfield for long, but he already feels like a close friend. He is able to take studentsâ opinions into account without compromising his overall vision, she said.
âHeâs just really nice,â Harfst said. âHe doesnât yell at us, he doesnât get in our face, but heâs still kind of stern. You know that youâre not going to get away with anything, but itâs not so bad. Weâre all really close, so we can joke around and just have fun, (but) we get so much done.â
Warfield is starting off his first year as Starkville Academyâs band director with band camp this week, preparing the students for their halftime show, âSalsa Explosion.â
Before coming to SA, Warfield spent a year as an assistant band director at South Panola High School, and he also spent the 2006-2007 year teaching at SHS. He is currently pursuing a doctorate from the University of Iowa, and he is originally from St. Louis, Mo., but he said he was glad to return to Starkville.
âMy wife and I really enjoyed the area,â Warfield said. âWe enjoyed South Panola and living up there, but my wife got a full-time job at (Mississippi State University); sheâs the new voice teacher. So, she decided to take that job, and I started looking for jobs and found that this was open.â
Billy Wilbanks, SA high school principal, said Warfieldâs credentials are impressive. Current interest in the band is strong, he said, but he wants it to grow larger, and he believes Warfield can make it happen.
âOur numbers are down right now, so weâre hoping that Mr. Warfield coming in will be able to have a good year (and) get our numbers back up,â Wilbanks said. âWe just welcome him, weâre glad to have him on board and we look forward to an outstanding year.â
Warfield said building the band up is one of his goals, but his primary goal is to give students a music education that will last after high school. That doesnât mean they have to play in a college band or major in music, he said; he just wants them educated well enough to pursue those goals if they desire.
â(I want students) to enjoy music enough that they can still enjoy it throughout life and continue to play it through community bands, in their churches (or) in the communities,â Warfield said. â(This includes) not just playing their instruments, (but) singing too, any kind of music they can get involved in.â
Beau Ellis, a rising eighth grader in SAâs band, said he is excited about this yearâs halftime show. Before working with Warfield, he said, he wasnât familiar with the salsa genre, but he has fallen in love with it.
âI just think this will actually get the attention of the crowd,â Ellis said.
Like Harfst, Ellis said the SA band feels like a family, and he is proud to be part of it. Its members get along even when problems arise, he said, and Warfield fits right in.
âHe just seems like he knows what heâs doing,â Harfst said. âHe seems like the kind of person that would listen to a student instead of just blasting his trumpet as loud as he can. Heâs open to suggestions. (Warfield is) just the kind of band director youâd like to have.â
Warfield said if he seems laid back, itâs partly because of his experience and largely because SAâs band students are courteous and cooperative.
âI told them the first day I was here: âYou give me respect; Iâll give you respect,ââ Warfield said. âThatâs all I ask of them, and theyâve been doing it. The students are great, hard-working students, very friendly, very fun to be around (and) very anxious to learn.â