Noted band directors honored

Noted band directors honored
January 14
00:00 2015
(pictured above: Submitted Photo Rudolph Boone plays the trumpet with the band during his service in the Army.)

The band rooms at local historically black high schools may soon bear the names of legendary band directors.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education will hear a proposal on Jan. 27 to rename the band rooms at the three existing Big Four schools – which were originally created for black students during segregation – for the band directors who shaped the music programs at each school. The band room of the old Atkins High School, now Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, will be named after Harry Wheeler. Paisley High



School, now Paisley IB Magnet School, will have its room named for Bernard Foy Sr., and Carver High School’s band room will be named after Rudolph Boone.

Bernard Foy Sr.

Bernard Foy Sr.

Boone, the only living honoree, taught at Carver for 25 years. He retired in 1985 after 30 years in education. Carver’s longest serving band teacher, Boone’s noted career included teaching at 27 schools and winning several Teacher of the Year awards.

“My proudest contributions are in the students I have taught, just seeing them go out into the world and doing quite well,” said Boone, who counts current band directors, attorneys and the school system’s chief academic officer, Dr. Kenneth Simington, among his former students.

He said this is a long overdue honor for Foy and Wheeler. He said they were outstanding musicians and community leaders. Foy, who passed away in 1984, was the first band director in the early 1960s at Paisley. His children, Bernard Jr. and Jocelyn Foy, both fondly recall the Rock-A-Rama student talent shows he conducted in which students would imitate Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and other stars of the era.

Foy was known for his perfect pitch and the formidable bands he directed. Jocelyn Foy said her father had an uncompromising standard of excellence for his students.

Bernard Jr and  Jocelyn Foy hold a picture of their father, Bernard Foy

Bernard Jr and Jocelyn Foy hold a picture of their father, Bernard Foy

Bernard Foy Sr. (standing, far left) ­with the Paisley Junior High Matching Band.

Bernard Foy Sr. (standing, far left) ­with the Paisley Junior High Matching Band.

“His expectation of you as a musician is also his expectation of you as a human being: If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it right,” she said.

Bernard Jr. said his father acted as a father figure for many of his students. He said that was common of the teachers in the close-knit community back then.

“School was kind of an extension of the family, of the home,” he said. “So it was more of a continuing of the belief that you can be better, so do better, that kind of attitude.”

Foy would go on to become the school system’s first African-American supervisor of music. He also had an accomplished career as a jazz artist, recording with singers like Cher and Jeffery Osborne.

Jocelyn said she felt her father would be happy with the honor, not just for himself, but for the other band directors. She said though they competed during half-time shows, the Big Four band directors, including Robert Shepherd of the now defunct Anderson High School, were all good friends.

School Board Member Victor Johnson supported the proposal because he said the band directors were deserving of the honor.

“I think the people they’ve chosen have been awfully good role models in this city,” he said.
Johnson attended Atkins, where Wheeler taught. His wife, Dr. Constance Johnson, was in marching and concert bands. Under Wheeler’s baton, the bands won competitions and earned respect around the city and state, she said.

“You were just so proud to be in Harry Wheeler’s marching band,” said Dr. Johnson.

She described Wheeler, who became band director at Atkins in 1949, as fair and easy going, but someone who meant business. He taught as many as 8,000 students over his 30-year career.

Beverly Williams, on behalf of the Big Four Alumni Association of Forsyth County, spearheaded the effort to have the band rooms renamed. She collected hundreds of signatures, starting at the Big Four breakfast last October, to present to the school board. She said she expects to have naming ceremonies at the schools in the next few months. The Anderson alumni would also like to someday see Shepherd’s name attached to the former band room at the former Anderson High, which is now Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center.

“It’s important to know how things got started,” Williams said. “You just walk into the band room and you don’t know it was 50 years ago that this all started, and they kept it going. Had it not been for the changes they made, who knows how the music programs would be in Winston-Salem?”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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