Who hasn’t been touched by music at some point in their lives? Some people could even say their lives have been profoundly changed by music. Often that change came from an inspiration, a source of learning and discipline while having a blast. Sometime that inspiration is a high school music teacher. A.C. Reynolds High School has such a teacher. In fact, it has two, and they are married. Dr. William Bryant began teaching band and orchestral music at the school 23 years ago. His wife, Janis Bryant, took over the choral department three years later. Together they create a music machine of a successful and consistently award-winning music department. In fact, kids from the A.C. Reynolds Band made up half of those chosen for the Buncombe County Schools Honors Band. Some of those members will likely be chosen for the All State Honors Band.
According to Dr. Bryant, about one quarter of the kids at A.C. Reynolds High School are involved in the music department making it not only successful, but very popular.
“It’s a safe place for the kids,” he pointed out. The music department itself is in a newer wing that was built about 10 years ago and has large music rooms and a 450-seat theatre for housing stage plays and musicals. Last year the combined vocal and orchestra students performed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. They will perform another musical in the spring; stay tuned to the Town Crier for details in the months to come.
And then there is the marching band. With a wall full of trophies from 2011 alone, it is clear that there is success behind Dr. Bryant’s teaching method.
He states, “My philosophy is very simple really; it’s that we learn to do what we do. And there’s an expectation that we learn to do what we do so we have to be hands on. A part of it is that we learn by doing, but we also learn by teaching. So I try to put a lot of responsibility with the older kids, that their job is not just to take care of themselves, but they have a responsibility to those who are coming new to the program, to help them grow and
to reach goals. It’s a self-evolving program in that the older ones help the younger ones. The younger ones relate well to the older kids and strive to match them. And so we create very positive roles with everybody trying to help each other do their best. My job is to try to keep all that moving.
“We try to set high standards, and we try to explain that they need to try to reach those goals that we set for them. The mantra I set for them is: We need to work hard, but we’re going to have fun doing it. But if we get the cart in front of the horse, and if the goal simply becomes to have fun, then oftentimes the work doesn’t follow and so the result doesn’t follow. So that’s another part we talk to them about so that they become self-motivated and self-actualized.” In that vein, the kids raised their own funds for a trip to New York City for a once-in-lifetime opportunity to play on stage at Carnegie Hall. In addition to playing music, the kids will be attending a Broadway Play, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taking a ride to the top of the Empire State Building and visiting Ground Zero —a learning opportunity they will never forget. These kids will surely remember the Bryants and the music department at A.C. Reynolds as a key source of inspiration with a lasting impact on their lives.