Dr. Kerry Bryant will be retiring in September, but there’s definitely no golden-years rocking chair in his future.
The director of bands at Adairsville High School has decided to wrap up his 30-year career as a high school music teacher to take on his next musical challenge: college professor.
“Retirement? What retirement?” Bryant, 53, said. “You see, I am retiring from public school teaching after 30 years but will be assuming my new post as assistant professor of music and director of bands at Young Harris College. So I am leaving one position one day to go right into another in the college ranks.”
Bryant, who took over the AHS band program in 2013, said it has “always been a professional aspiration of mine to teach at the college level, and now I am honored to have been asked to do so.”
“I actually have already taught as an adjunct professor at Reinhardt University in the summer master’s degree program and also some night undergraduate music education courses there as I was able,” he said. “But now, I will be in a tenure-track position and am really looking forward to the new challenge.”
Even though the Waleska resident will be ending his public school career during marching band season, that will have “no effect” on the Marching Tigers being ready for their first football game Aug. 17.
“In fact, there will be ‘two of me,’” he said, noting his decision to retire now was “not sudden at all.” “The Bartow County Schools have very generously and wisely decided to support hiring the incoming band director beginning in August, and we anticipate having that person around for band camp in July, too. Kudos to Dr. [Phillip] Page, our new superintendent, and Mr. [Bruce] Mulkey, my principal at Adairsville High School, for making that happen.”
Mulkey said the search for a new director has been going on “for several weeks,” and Bryant’s replacement should be named early this week.
But the principal added the current director, whose last day will be the Armuchee Invitational Band Contest on Sept. 29, is “going to be very difficult to replace.”
“Our community has been fortunate to have him as our director for the last five years,” he said. “He’s worked tirelessly to grow our bands and to help our students grow musically and as young adults. One of the first things I remember him telling me several years ago was that his job was to give students a great experience. He just chose to do that through music. I’ll always remember that about him.”
Teaching band is “unlike any other teaching position in the school,” according to Bryant.
“It is somewhere between an academic teacher, coach, mentor and counselor,” he said. “I am granted access to these kids' lives, I dare say, more than any other teacher, generally just due to the sheer amount of hours I spend around the band kids. That is a very rewarding thing to do with your professional life.”
He said he had one “very simple reason” for wanting to teach at Adairsville: “the great band students there.”
“I have taught in four school systems in Georgia and one in South Carolina, and these kids are really amazing in their attitude,” he said. “That is largely because of the families that raise them and the family-like atmosphere at AHS.”
Bryant said his most gratifying moment at the school was “gaining the first-ever invitational performance” for the symphonic band to perform at the University of Alabama Honor Band Clinic in 2015.
“That came about due to a blind-auditioned submission of recordings of the AHS symphonic band and stands out as a singular achievement for the band,” he said. “Most folks see the marching band at ball games, parades, etc., but most do not understand that the success of the marching band is due to the success and progress of the symphonic program. That is where the real instruction and musical rubber hits the road, so to speak.”
One 2017 marching band competition also stands out as a memorable moment for the director.
“The marching band also won its class for the second year in a row and then went on to win second place overall, regardless of size, at the Armuchee Invitational last year,” he said. “For a Class AA marching band, that's pretty remarkable to be judged superior to dozens of bands much larger than we are.”
Bryant earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Kentucky in 1986 and secured a position as an assistant band director at Riverdale High School in Clayton County that same year.
In 1991, he left the school and took two years off to get a Master of Music Education degree from the University of South Carolina, where he also served as a graduate assistant.
After a partial-year assignment at a high school in South Carolina, Bryant came back to Georgia in 1993 and worked as director of bands at Forest Park High School from 1993 to 1996 and Jonesboro High School from 1996 to 1999.
Between 1999 and 2012, he was director of bands at Winder-Barrow High School, served three years as the coordinator of fine arts for Barrow County Schools and earned his education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in 2007 and his doctor of educational leadership from Liberty University in 2012.
Bryant served as director of bands at Buford High School for one year before coming to Adairsville in 2013.
He and his wife, Kelly, a professional flutist, have been married for 24 years, and they have two kids, Jack, who was a senior during his dad’s first year at AHS and graduated in June from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, with a Bachelor of Arts in horn performance; and Helen, a 17-year-old rising senior at AHS and a pianist who will be the United States’ first-ever representative at the Osaka International Music Competition in October.
“I am quite proud of both my kids,” he said. “Thank goodness they take after their mama!”
Bryant said leaving Adairsville will be “for sure a bittersweet moment,” but he will “always carry the memories we made there in my heart.”
“I anticipate being back in Bartow and surrounding areas to recruit for the Young Harris band, though,” he said. “So let me put in a plug for that right now. Any aspiring high school instrumentalists out there that want a great, small, private liberal arts education, and under my mentorship, I would love to have you come audition at YHC.”