Marching to new heights is goal of Tornado band

Bryant Adler is the director of the Alcoa High School Marching Band.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

Bryant Adler is the director of the Alcoa High School Marching Band.

Drum major Kyle Knight leads the Alcoa High School Marching Band during competition.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

Drum major Kyle Knight leads the Alcoa High School Marching Band during competition.

The Alcoa High School Marching Band has grown to 44 members from 17 in the past six years.

Photo by Jenifer Clark

The Alcoa High School Marching Band has grown to 44 members from 17 in the past six years.

When Bryant Adler showed up at Alcoa High School six years ago to take over the marching band, there were two big problems: There were only a handful of members, and they weren’t marching. They sat in the stands during football games and played to the crowd.

That didn’t sit well with Adler.

“When I first got here, there was a pep band but not a marching band. I felt we had to completely change the mindset. We started marching from year one,” he said. “We had six kids playing horns with a total of 17 members. I was the drum major that first year.”

Alcoa High principal Scott Porter said he has been impressed with how the band has grown and how Adler has led them.

“Seven years ago, when I got here, our band had had five people and now we’re up to about 40, so there’s been a resurgence,” Porter said. “I think our director has done a phenomenal job of re-energizing everybody -- from the kids and administration to the parents in the community. He has enthusiasm that is contagious.”

Porter said Adler is passionate about what he does. “He’s serious about performing well and has high expectations,” the principal said. “Bryant can develop relationships with the kids, and they will go the extra mile for him.”

Bryant J. Adler, 28, is a Kingsport native who graduated the University of Tennessee where he was a member of the Pride of the Southland Band. This is his sixth year at Alcoa High School.

“Now we’re up to 44 kids,” he said, his enthusiasm evident in his voice. “It’s incredible. We are hoping to expand that and make it grow faster,” he said. “We’d like to see it get to 60 or 70 kids, maybe even get to 100, where were in the ‘60s and ‘70s when they had over 100 band members.”

Adler said he respects the students in the marching band because they compete against much larger bands. “The kids have a lot of integrity. I don’t know if I could handle doing it in their shoes,” he said. “When I was in school, I always was in big bands.”

Adler said establishing relationships with the students and the parents has been a important key to the band’s growth. He constantly tries to remember what it is like for the members of the band, he said, because they are in “growth years,” and don’t yet have the reputation and tradition the football program has. To help compensate, Adler said, “It needs to be fun.”

Just a few moments in conversation with members of the band prove Adler’s point - the group is growing and their enthusiasm is contagious. Senior Kyle Knight, 18, is in his third year with the band and now serves as drum major. The band’s size doesn’t bother Knight because he said he knows the band is getting better each year.

“I don’t pay attention to others, I pay attention to what we do,” he said. “We’ve gotten better every year.”

Sophomore Sydney King, 15, plays the flute in the marching band. “Our band has gotten better and better each year. I’m extra proud,” he said.

Senior Erin Bruce, 17, said before Adler came band didn’t have many members but she still hoped it would grow. “I always wanted to be in marching band. He really started the rebirth,” Bruce said. “Everyone is working hard, and we’re growing better each year.”

Heidi Frazier’s sons Nathan Frazier and Austin Frazier, a senior and an eighth grader respectively, are both in band. Marching band provides a good environment for students to grow. “It’s a school within a school,” she said. “It’s a place for them to connect.”

Vivian West is band booster president said the band was able to go to camp this past summer and get their entire routine down during that week of intense training. Music was arranged by Danielle Williams from Vanderbilt University, and the drills were choreographed by Travis Greene, a doctoral student at Indiana University. “We think they’re having a tremendous year,” she said.

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