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Williamstown loses, gains band director

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By Bryan Marshall

 

The Williamstown High School Band of Spirit lost its leader days before band camp was set to begin.

Mike Pickrell, who was hired in 2011 to replace Bob Gregg, resigned July 19 as band director to accept the same position at Richland High School in Texas.

Before coming to WHS, Pickrell had spent four years as band director at Keller High School in Texas.

Pickrell’s wife, Sharon Pickrell, also resigned from her position as high school English teacher.

The band members were sent an urgent e-mail from Pickrell after his resignation calling for a band meeting so he could break the news to them.

“A lot of us were surprised,” said Senior Morgan Shoemaker. “We were grateful that he told us in person, but we had three days until band camp. So, it was a disappointing thing to deal with. It’s all just about moving forward at this point.”

Band camp was not delayed by Pickrell’s resignation as the students marched on with Jim Daughters as interim director.

Daughters teaches music at Conner Middle School in Boone County and had been assisting Pickrell. 

Bradley Howard, Michael Cotten, Scott Getlin, Larry Rebillot and Jonathan Smith, as well as, other former student helpers have stepped up to make sure the band is ready for marching season.

“It’s definitely been a difficult situation to deal with,” Shoemaker said. “But, the band parents and the part-time instructors that are helping us have definitely been very helpful. We just, as a band, want to move forward and move on with what we’re supposed to be doing as a band.”

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.

“Obviously marching band season has begun, so it puts the district in some ways at a disadvantage to be looking for a band director now as programs across the state/nation have already begun practicing in preparation for the upcoming season,” Skinner said. “Therefore, one might assume that the field of experienced directors would be rather narrow. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of our candidates.” 

Skinner said the committee received about 30 applications for the position, a number they planned to narrow to five applicants to interview this week.

A new director is expected to be named by the end of the week.

“We are confident, based on the pool of candidates qualifications and experience, we will find the right candidate who will not only be the right fit but will also continue to carry on the district’s and band’s tradition of excellence for years to come,” Skinner said.

Skinner said that Pickrell did inform her in May before school ended that he was being solicited by some school districts in Texas to apply for vacancies.

However, since she had not heard anything since May and Pickrell had signed a contract, Skinner said she assumed he would be remaining at WHS.

During their two-year tenure, Skinner said both Mike and Sharon Pickrell were valued members of the staff.  

“Although the timing of their departure is unfortunate, my hope is, wounds will heal and all will be able to someday appreciate the contributions each brought to the table,” she said. “I want to commend our students for the wonderful way they have accepted this perceived setback and applaud them for their spirit and determination to turn what many would consider lemons into lemonade. I am so proud of our students, staff, parents and families and community partners, who have given new meaning to the phrase, ‘The show must go on.’ 

In Pickrell’s time at WHS, the Band of Spirit finished runner-up and fourth place in the Kentucky Music Educator Association state championship.

Previously, WHS had won five state titles under the direction of Gregg.

Despite a director change so close to the beginning of the season, Shoemaker said she still has high hopes for the band.

“I think we’ve grown accustomed to each other and now have gone through a lot,” she said. “We want to be there for each other and want to do the best we can with everything. We are highly anticipating a new director. We’re excited about the direction we’re going in. We’re read for band season to start.”