TIFTON — Tift County High School has a new band director and for him, this is his dream job.
Curt Kimbrough, who teaches at Newbern Middle School in Valdosta, said he's dreamed of being a high school band director for a long time. He has been teaching band in the Valdosta City School System for 23 years. He's the longest-tenured band director in the system.
So, why Tifton? Originally from here, Kimbrough says Tifton is his home. After learning about the position being open, he decided to apply.
"There's nothing like home," he said, noting Tifton is the only job he would have taken to leave Valdosta. He said Valdosta has been very good to him.
Kimbrough says he's excited and humbled by the opportunity to now serve as band director for his hometown.
"I understand that the folks around here are looking to have some improvement in the band program, so we're going to bring some improvement," he said.
With so much turnover in band directors in recent years in Tift County, he said the program needs leadership and stability.
He said he'll be in charge of the band program from grades 6-12, although he will be based at the high school. He fully understands that the marching band is the face of the program.
"No other aspect of our program is seen more than it is on Friday nights for six, seven times a year for home ball games," he said. "We'll put a lot of energy into making sure that that's a great presentation not only when we're on the field but while we're in the stands. There is going to be a great presentation of music that people know."
Kimbrough noted they have already begun their color guard and dance line tryouts.
"We're going to incorporate much visual to accommodate what we do musically," he said.
He's also looking to entertain. Quoting from the movie "Drumline," Kimbrough said his goal is to educate the kids first and then their second goal, particularly on Friday nights, is to entertain.
"We're going to make sure that folks enjoy the band program from pre-game until the end of the game," he said.
Kimbrough added people can expect a pre-game show. He said he really wants to bring a college-type atmosphere to Friday nights. They will do a full pre-game show (6-8 minutes), which will be done on the field.
The field show will be thematic. Kimbrough said he's not settled on a theme yet, but he has several in mind.
Kimbrough also noted that the band program is not just the marching band. He wants to make sure it's well-rounded. He said they will make their concert band program strong as well.
"It's a 12-month program," he said, noting they will also be active in the community with entertainment.
Additionally, Kimbrough said they're not going to be so focused on preparing for competitions, although they will compete. As a student in Tift County and teacher in Valdosta, he noted he's won 18 grand championships in band competitions.
"I'm very familiar with how to do that, but what I don't want to do is sacrifice the Friday night experience for the sake of preparing for a Saturday experience to play for somebody who doesn't even know us," Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough said he's also considering doing multiple shows. It's not his intention for the audience to see the same thing more than twice at any point during the year.
"They may hear one song, they may hear it with another feature or with a featured group, but we're going to do multiple shows and try to have a variety of things," he said.
Kimbrough said his administration is behind him and has been very supportive, commending Principal Kim Seigler, Superintendent Patrick Atwater and the board of education, and also mentioning that Andy Ballard and new head football coach Ashley Anders have been very welcoming.
Kimbrough has mostly worked with middle school kids, and said he's looking forward to working with older students.
"With older students, I understand that I can have their input. I'm a good listener," he said. "I may not do what they want, but they'll know that they've been heard and I've considered what they've said. I want them to have fun."
The group he is most eager to serve is the rising seniors because he's going to be the third band director they've had.
"Transition is difficult on anybody. It's really difficult on children. I'm sure by now they're good and frustrated," Kimbrough said. "I want my seniors to know that they will have my ear, and I'm going to do all I can to make their senior year of band their very best year of high school."
He said his primary reason for being a teacher is because of the great experience he had as a Tift County student.
"I feel that I am who I am today because of the band and I want to offer that same experience to the children where they can play good music, learn to play their instruments well, learn more about how to play well, experience some things as band students that they would not have otherwise experienced, such as travel opportunities," he said.
Kimbrough said they're also going to work hard. He said students can expect him to be quite demanding, because he feels that teachers owe students more than just their education.
"Whatever they're doing they have to be held accountable to make sure they're doing it at their very best, because when they leave me and leave high school, they're going to be expected to do their best in the real world," he said. "That's what band did for me."
As a band member in middle and high schools, Kimbrough, who played the trumpet, said after going through the program, he was prepared for the next level, college. After graduating high school, he attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and got his bachelor's degree in music education from Valdosta State University and his master's degree from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Ill.
Kimbrough said the students can also expect for him to share his faith with them in a manner that is non-insulting. He said he hopes to share with them that "the foundation of their very being is the God we serve."
"We (teachers) owe them a part of who we are to make sure we're producing productive citizens," he said. "I'm really excited about the opportunity to simply minister to these young people."
Kimbrough said even today he still seeks out advice from his former band director, Terry Rountree, who works in Valdosta as well.
"I want to have that effect on students here that my directors had on me," he said. "I want to make an impact on these kids' lives."