Youth lead the way for KHS band

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keith High School marching band drummers practice Tuesday afternoon. The band will debut their 2011 halftime show this Friday night, when they travel to Calhoun. -- Desiree Taylor

ORRVILLE — With combat boots and a whistle in hand, Keith High band director Marcus Rackley directs his 25 band students through a practice similar to a boot camp.

Using a computer music program to help students keep time and a tennis ball to catch their attention, Rackley, who played tuba in Alabama State University’s Mighty Marching Hornets band, believes his hard-nose, straightforward style is beneficial and has been for the past eight years.

“I’m not going to make it sugary for you, I’m gonna tell the truth,” Rackley said. “I think they can appreciate a person that cares about them, and that’s my way of showing that I care. I try to be straight to the point, and it’s effective because it gets their attention. In today’s age, the main thing is trying to get the attention of the children.”

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And with the bulk of Keith’s original band having graduated last season, Rackley has to start from scratch. Rackley though, believes it’s a good thing.

“This season is different because I have a lot of inexperienced players … more than half of the 25 are eighth grade,” Rackley said. “It will take a whole lot to get those players up to snuff right now. The players are a lot younger and it’s going to take a little more to get them performance-ready. It’s tough right now in the beginning, but in the end, it will work out a little bit better.”

The “lean, mean marching machine” has practiced in many afterschool and summertime rehearsals in preparation for the school’s first game set for Friday, Aug. 26.

“We spend a large amount of time trying to make this band sound good … make sure it’s focused,” Rackley said. “My personal objective is to make the band sound good first, (and) everything else is secondary. If the band doesn’t sound good, then everything else doesn’t matter, in my opinion.”

Having played as section leader in college with the current band directors of Selma and Southside High Schools, Rackley believes he brings a lot to the table.

“Growing up in Mobile, Mardi Gras is really a religion so to speak, and I think I bring that type of flavor to this particular program,” Rackley said. “I got a lot of experience and was able to bring that and transform that into working with the younger kids.”

And with lessons on how to breathe properly and how to use instruments in the absolute best way, Rackley’s expectations for his students are simple.

“My expectations for this season is for each one of my students to become musicians,” Rackley said.

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