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Hedges to lead WHS Band of Spirit

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By Bryan Marshall

Chris Hedges helped bring a KMEA state marching band title to Grant County High School in 1998.
Now, he hopes to do the same for Williamstown High School as the new Band of Spirit director.

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The Crittenden resident is taking over for Mike Pickrell, who resigned July 19 to become band director at Richland High School in Texas.
Pickrell was hired in 2011 to replace Bob Gregg.
“This is the second time I’ve taught where Bob Gregg has taught,” Hedges said with a laugh, alluding to Harrison County and Williamstown.

“Since I had been at Grant County, I had always known about the (WHS) program,” he said. “It was one of those rare things where someone with the experience I have was available. I was lucky enough to get an interview and then they offered me the position. I happily took it. I’m very excited about it.”

Williamstown Superintendent Sally Skinner selected Linda Treichel, Darrell Cummins, Paradise Forbes, Wes Staff and  WHS Principal Brandy Feagan to join her on the selection committee for a replacement for Pickrell.

Skinner said the committee received about 40 applications for the position.
Of those, six applicants were interviewed by the committee before Hedges was chosen.
“Mr. Hedges’ state marching band experience with both smaller and larger bands, his expertise and reputation as a teacher of young musicians and his ties to the community made him the committee’s top choice,” Skinner said. “I feel confident Mr. Hedges will be the right fit for Williamstown and will be the perfect transitional and motivational leader the band program, its students, parents, staff and community partners have come to expect.”   

Hedges is entering his 20th year of teaching, having started as band director in 1994 at Rowan County High School.
During his tenure at Grant County High School from 1997 to 2001, Hedges led the band to a state title.

That band, along with four others, will be honored Aug. 8 by the Grant County Board of Education as they were selected for the district’s Hall of Fame.

After GCHS, Hedges spent three years at Campbell County High School and one year at East Central High School in Indiana before going to Harrison County from 2005 to 2009.

The past four years, he has been teaching orchestra at Conner Middle School while assisting marching bands at Conner High School, Scott High School and Simon Kenton High School.
Hedges also spent four years at Florence Baptist Church in Mt. Zion as instrumental director.

He is a graduate of Pikeville High School, a school he described as smaller and independent, not unlike Williamstown.
In fact, one of Hedges’ former band directors at Pikeville, Steve Rice, was a pastor at Williamstown Baptist for several years.
“It’s a great community,” Hedges said about Williamstown. “It’s got a lot of support. You have an opportunity to come in and these kids have worked hard together.”

Since Pickrell resigned days before band camp began, the band went about its business with interim director Jim Daughters with assistance by Bradley Howard, Michael Cotten, Scott Getlin, Larry Rebillot and Jonathan Smith, as well as, other former student helpers.
Hedges said he wants the transition to be as smooth as possible.
“They were in a routine with the staff,” he said. “They’ve already had a lot of change so I’ve kind of eased in to things. They’ve been very welcoming and very supportive.”

A show titled “Birds of a Feather” was already put into place before Pickrell’s resignation, something Hedges said he was grateful for.
Now, its Hedges’ job to get the band to improve each day performing.

“Marching is marching. Playing music is playing music and performing is performing,” he said. “Our job is to get them to the highest level that we can get them. The show was put together by very capable staff people. We’ll go with it and give them everything we can to be successful.”

Having been teaching band students for two decades, Hedges said he has changed through the years.
He describes himself as more laid back in his approach.
“I told the kids that my job was to love them and their job was to love each other,” Hedges said. “You just invest in the people around you. They do have some of the odds stacked against them and there will be a learning process. But, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they’ll be cooperative and work hard and do the best they can. When you’re doing this it has to be more than just about winning. If it’s just about winning and you don’t win, then you forget all the things you’ve learned throughout the process.”