When his baby arrived just before the first home football game, new East Wake High band director Alan Mason strapped his little one to his chest and brought him along to band practice.
Q: You have completed your first year teaching at East Wake High? Is this your first year as a teacher as well?
A: This is my first year at East Wake. I am the school’s band director and I also lead orchestra. Before coming to East Wake, I taught at James Hunt High School in Wilson and before that I worked at a middle school in LaGrange.
Q: Has music always been a big part of your life? What made you want to teach young people about music?
Never miss a local story.
A: I just sort of always knew I wanted to be a band director. Growing up, you could say my home was filled with music. The first instrument I learned was the clarinet and that is because that was the instrument we had because that is what my sister was playing. In middle school band, they needed someone to play either the tuba or the euphonium so I chose the euphonium – also called a baritone. Once I got into high school, I learned the trumpet and I also played some percussion. I grew up in Fayetteville and attended Terry Sanford High School. My band director there, John Washburn – who is now at Myrtle Beach High School – made a big impression on me. He became my mentor and helped me to keep my grades up. Not only did he lead the band, but he would encourage you to be a good person. I wanted to one day become the kind of band director he was. As a teacher, to me, making music is secondary. My main goal is to be the kind of person the kids can look up to.
Q: So when you left high school, you went on to college to pursue that goal?
A: Not right away. After high school, I spent the summer touring the country with the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps (a world class competitive junior drum and bugle corps) – they won the world championship last year. The highest we finished the year I was with them was seventh. We traveled up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. The year I was with them, we competed in the world championship in Denver. It was a great experience. After touring with them, I attended East Carolina University and majored in music education.
Q: Do you feel learning and doing well playing a musical instrument is something inherent?
A: I think there is something to be said about having that natural ability, but everyone has the ability to learn a musical instrument and like most things, you can hone that with self-discipline and drive.
Q: I understand you are a new dad. What has that been like – new dad, new job?
A: Initially, it was difficult. James (now nine months) was born right before our first (football) home game so here I am with a new band program and a baby. At rehearsals, I would have him in a BabyBjorn (sling for carrying babies) during rehearsals and I had my wife helping me as well. Balancing all of that was definitely a challenge. Also, he had RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) at first but he is better now. Sometimes the music would scare him, but I think he eventually got used to it and it would help him sleep.
Q: What advice would you give to new dads?
A: Be there as much as you can because they change so much their first year. Don’t take the small milestones for granted.”
Q: When you are not leading high school students, what do you do for fun?
A: I like playing disc golf. I am also interested in the craft beer industry. There are a lot of new breweries opening up across the state – it seems to be a booming industry. I am also one of the founding players for the Hay Street United Methodist Church Tuba Christmas (in Fayetteville). Using mostly tubas and baritones, we play Christmas music.
Q: What are some of your goals for the East Wake High band?
A: We are working to get new instruments and new uniforms. The uniforms we have now are 11 years old, and I would really like to get a new style.
Q: Do you think you have become the high school band director like you had – making a positive impact on teen-agers?
A: I want to be but that is hard to say. Sometimes it takes a while to realize the impact you have had on a kid. We will just have to wait and see how these kids turn out.
Correspondent Dena Coward