Needham B. Broughton High School Band

With plans to retire in 2012 after more than 33 years with the Needham B. Broughton High School Band and a capstone performance in the Tournament of Roses Parade, Director Jeffery “JR” Richardson discusses longevity and success in a program where everyone belongs and every opportunity is a high-powered chance to perform.

Photo courtesy of Needham B. Broughton High School Band

The Needham B. Broughton High School Band in Raleigh, N.C., has marched in major events including the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, performed for three U.S. presidents and four North Carolina governors, and hosted the United States Marine Band at a school concert. In 2001, it traveled overseas and received the gold medal at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, Holland. Locally, it competes in marching contests across the state. Jeffery “JR” Richardson has been the driving force behind this band for 33 years, making everything possible for these young musicians. He plans to retire in 2012, following its appearance in that year’s Rose Parade.

Halftime: Why did you become a band director?

Richardson: I played clarinet in high school and went to Virginia Tech thinking I was going to become a veterinarian. But then I realized I missed playing, so I transferred to the University of Tennessee, where I received my degree in music education.

Halftime: What’s it like to have taught at the same school for your entire career?

Richardson: There have only been five band directors in the 81-year history of the school, and there’s good reason to stay. Broughton is filled with traditions in academics, athletics and the arts. Band directors today usually stay at a school for about 10 years. I like to call them the “Popcorn Generation” because they put effort into something and want results two minutes later. I believe it takes a lot of work to get where you want to be and even more to stay there. It took me nine years to get my program to a level I was happy with and 24 more to keep it there. The end of December marks my 33rd year. I was originally going to retire at the end of this school year; however, the band has been invited to perform in the 2012 Rose Parade, so I’m going to stick around until then.

Halftime: What are your secrets to success?

Richardson: Make sure everyone has a place to belong. I’ve never thought we were the best program around, and we’ve never wanted to be. As long as you give me that 110 percent, you deserve a spot in my band. Too many groups nowadays are exclusive and only want the best of the best. These bands have become too competitive. You have to make it fun! Otherwise, the numbers will drop. Our retention rate is usually 96 to 97 percent every year because our kids enjoy it.

Halftime: What is the most important thing you discovered while teaching?

Richardson: Don’t sweat the small stuff! My band recently competed, and one of my students couldn’t be there because of a family affair. Fifteen years ago, I would’ve flipped out, but now I realize that some things are more important than band.

Halftime: You’ve been in several prestigious parades and performed for U.S. presidents and senators. What’s it like having these opportunities?

Richardson: I look at every opportunity as a high-powered chance to perform. These were just extra-special performances we were allowed to do.

Our school is located two miles from the state capitol, and the Governor’s Mansion is only a block past that. Because of our location in the city, we’ve had tons of opportunities and connections. Former Governor Jim Hunt’s child was in the band, and people would see him at performances and say, “Hey! That’s the Governor!,” and I would respond, “No he’s not. Tonight, he’s a band parent.”

Halftime: What did you and your students gain from these experiences?

Richardson: A deeper appreciation for music, the chance to travel and the understanding that every time they put on that uniform, they’re representing their school, family, state, country, etc. I hope I’ve given every child a place to belong, shown them amazing things and changed their lives.

Halftime: Any special retirement plans?

Richardson: Sleep! I would like to travel. I’m the type of person who knows that when I retire, I won’t be able to give it up cold turkey. I would like to judge competitions or be a sub. It’s been a fun run. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy.

About the Author

Kellie Graham is a sophomore majoring in public relations at the University of Southern California. She has been playing the trumpet since the fifth grade and is a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band. After graduation, Kellie plans on joining a major public relations firm in Los Angeles or New York.

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