Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Andrew Jackson High's Band Is Back; There Are More Musicians, a New Attitude and, Soon, There'll Be a New Look

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Andrew Jackson High's Band Is Back; There Are More Musicians, a New Attitude and, Soon, There'll Be a New Look

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN CARTER

The music had gone flat.

There was little pep in their step.

The mighty Tigers' growl was a faint echo of its once-deafening roar.

But now they're singing a different tune at Andrew Jackson High School.

The school's once-mighty band had atrophied to a paltry two-dozen members. They rarely played at school events, and when they did, they wore jogging suits instead of the crisp red and white uniforms of yesteryear.

Something had to be done.

Enter second-year Principal Lance Barnett.

The former high school athlete missed the band at school events. He is convinced the band's importance transcends the instruction members received.

He thought about how the band provides the soundtrack to students' memories, about the band's role in amping up school pride.

He polled the school's students and found out they felt exactly the same way.

"I was determined to bring the band back," Barnett said. "We needed to go in a new direction."

That, of course, meant they needed a new director.

Enter Reginald Mitchell.

He had a reputation for rebuilding faltering band programs. Barnett made it a priority to recruit the popular band director.

"Basically, he drafted me," Mitchell said. "He brought me over from Raines High School for the express purpose of building up the band."

He took the Tigers by the tail in August, all two dozen of them, and immediately began to seek, cajole and recruit new members.

The result?

A proud 80-member Tigers band with a new attitude - new swagger in the marching moves and more mojo in the music.

Along the way, Mitchell got a good package deal on spiffy new jogging suits, a definite improvement.

But next year they'll really dressed for success - to the tune of $41,000 worth of top-notch red and white uniforms.

"A lot of these kids don't have all the boosters or financial support you find at some schools," Mitchell said. "So the first thing I did when I got here was to sit down and pray. I prayed hard for the vision to steer the band in a new direction.

And with the principal's backing, it started to happen."

The pumped-up band began to play at school events and at halftime shows. …

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