The band once called the Pride of Sciotoville is saying goodbye to the director who hoped to return them to their former glory. East High School Band Director Randall McMullen has announced his retirement after working with the band since 2014.
“I was going to teach here for 4-5 more years until I saw kids I started in junior high get through the program,” McMullen stated. “I had never planned on retiring at 65.”
However, Social Security benefits made it worthwhile, and he says he is retiring early enough that he’ll be able to enjoy it.
McMullen says he was hired to rebuild the band program. East High School Marching Band was once one of the best bands in the area. However, after the death of Director Scott Brehm, the band struggled to find and maintain leadership. Eventually, the band dwindled in numbers and performance skills. They stopped participating in competitions, stopped marching from the high school to the field on Friday nights, and lost involvement of alumni.
The band director explained that he had built bands before. Unlike this situation, often those bands were beginning bands with fresh students that had never played before and thus did not have any bad habits. McMullen said that in these cases, he was able to teach these bands to not only play but dominate competitions and county.
McMullen is a graduate of West High School. He attended Marshall University, after which he was a high school band director for three years. He was then with the US Army band for 22 years. He has performed, directed, and/or severed as drum major in 13 countries. Before teaching at East, McMullen was working as a director for a high school in West Virginia.
While at East, McMullen built up the junior high.
“My 7th and 8th grade band is the heart of the band right now,” he stated.
The director currently has 19 in the junior high band but only three in the high school.
“Next year’s 9th graders are the future of the band,” McMullen continued.
He also boasted that the band can now play the National Anthem.
McMullen said he had heard no news of his replacement and hopes for the best for the future of the band.
“I hope they (East High School) hire someone who will progress because these kids deserve the very best,” McMullen said.
In retirement, he plans to offer private lessons in everything from voice and piano to band instruments.
“I have taught private lessons on and off since high school,” the music enthusiast commented.
He was originally taught piano but his aunt Mary Smalley, local piano teacher who taught many area children. From there, he took lessons in high school from a college piano instructor before taking piano classes at Marshall.
Before retiring, McMullen and the East band will have one more concert.
“We’re going to play the National Anthem, and it sounds good,” he stated.
The concert starts at 8 p.m. Thursday night at East High School.
“It’s us and the art department working together,” McMullen commented. “I encourage people to come early, so they can see the art show before the concert.”
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.