Fuller's Pride in the Delta Pride
by Courtney Warren
Nov 13, 2013 | 2569 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As their music is played for crowds to hear, Clay Fuller's heart full of pride continues to grow.

Fuller is the band director for Cleveland High School's The Delta Pride Marching Band and has been since the summer of 2008.

At that time the band was only comprised of 90 students in high school and junior high.

That number didn't worry Fuller, and since then the program has doubled to around 220 students.

Fuller hit the ground running after he became band director and the program has made a great deal of improvements.

"I procured a budget and the district gave me most of what I asked for. We have replaced a 15-year-old set of uniforms with a brand new set.

"The band went from inconsistently rating superior to consistently rating superior. In the five and a half years I've been here we've brought home 25 or 30 trophies from different competitions," said Fuller.

The CHS band competes in the state marching band competition each year, which is sponsored by the Mississippi High School Activities Association in conjunction with the Mississippi Band Masters Association.

Fuller was also a past president of the band association.

To get to the state marching band competition the band has to declare they will be competing in July of that year and pay a $250 declaration fee.

The next step is to go to the regional marching evaluation and make all superior ratings.

The CHS band has never won the championship but placed 8th in class 4A this past year.

In order to get the band up to the competitive level it needs to be, Fuller is working to get the students' schedules worked out so there is plenty of practice time as well and is also trying to recruit more students.

"We've changed the schedule around a little to enhance teaching. We've moved the high school period from after lunch, when it's extremely hot, to third period when it's much cooler, which as allowed us to be a lot more effective," said Fuller.

"We've added more junior high band classes. When they put the sixth grade over at Margaret Green that increased our enrollment."

While Fuller impresses upon his students the importance of hard work, he also shows that that hard work pays off and there are some pretty fun benefits.

One of his fondest memories is of rewarding his students for doing well.

"At the beginning of the 2011 marching band season I told the kids if they made all superiors in everything and brought home a sweepstakes award they could shave my head and they pulled through.

"We sat in the band hall with clippers, razors, shaving cream, and a big bowl of hot water and all the seniors shaved my head completely bald," said Fuller.

That year the CHS band had scored the highest they possibly could.

"Sweepstakes award is when you receive a superior rating from every MHSAA judge—there are nine—three for marching, three for concert, and three for sight-reading," he added.

Sight-reading is when judges give musicians a piece of music they have never seen before, the musicians have eight minutes to look at it, then play it.

Fuller also has big plans for the band's future.

"We're going to keep working on recruitment and making the beginner classes bigger. We're also working on retention.

"We're working on schedule conflicts with the high school—four or five kids have had to quit band because of scheduling conflicts so I'm working on ironing those out," he said.

With the band continuing to grow, Fuller needs more help to teach the students.

"I'm working on getting a third band director. I've made a proposal to hire a second assistant, which would be a third band director.

"We're spread out. They say the ideal teacher to student ratio is about 1 to 18 and with two band directors our ratio is one to about 40 at times," he said.

One of Fuller's main goals is to expand the budget for the band.

"What we have still isn't enough. Funding remains our biggest obstacle. We use about half of our district monies on travel to football games.

"Once that is gone, there isn't enough left to replace and maintain instruments, or purchase enough educational materials and supplies.

"The band booster organization and the students fundraise twice what the district provides us. The band boosters spend around $20,000 annually on the band program," said Fuller.

A trumpet player himself, Fuller understands how high school band can sometimes change a student's life—he began trumpet in his beginner band class in 6th grade 1986.

Whether they are having a good time experimenting with sound, or marching on the field during half time, the Cleveland High School band director is proud of all the band has accomplished and is looking forward to a music-filled future.