Madill Public Schools’ band program has flourished in the last five years, and while he’s too modest to say otherwise, their director might have something to do with it.
This year, Kendal Hasty was recognized as one of School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s 50 Directors That Make a Difference. The magazine names one director from each state to receive the award. Last year, the Southeastern Oklahoma Band Directors Association named him director of the year and, more recently, the South Central Oklahoma Band Directors Association named him director of the year.
“Any time people see the time and work you put in, it feels great,” Hasty said. “But the kids are making me look really good. I’m not doing anything super fancy or exceptional, in my opinion. Kids are just buying into what we’re doing.”
An East Central University alumnus, Hasty started at Madill five years ago, when the high school band had roughly 45 students. At the time, the band director was also expected to teach a humanities course. Hasty said he had no interest in teaching the course, but accepted the position anyway.
“The administrators made it really clear that if I could get my numbers up, I wouldn’t have to teach humanities,” Hasty said. “There’s not a lot of good resources for it. They weren’t having fun, and I wasn’t having fun.”
The motivation to build the band was strong. The band started the year with about 100 beginning students and the high school band has about 145 students.
“You build from the bottom up,” Hasty said. “You start with those beginning band students so everything grows as they get older.”
He said building the program requires kids to get excited about it in the first place, which means introducing the idea of playing an instrument to students at a young age.
“The administration has been really supportive and so they let me go in, talk to the fifth graders, and we do pep assemblies whenever we can at the elementary school,” Hasty said. “At the middle school level, we can test them on each instrument.”
To keep up with the growth, the district hired an assistant band director, Kaden Howard.
“We made that decision because when I was taking 150 kids to a football game or contest, I was the only one,” Hasty said. “That’s a safety issue. We had to get an extra pair of eyes and ears, and she’s a very talented musician.”
Hasty said competing with a smaller band is a challenge, and five years ago Madill’s was considered small for a 4A band. Now they’re considered unusually large for their division.
“When I first showed up in Madill they were kind of stuck in a rut,” Hasty said. “We’re finally starting to see some progress. Every contest we go to, every year, we have more people and better instrumentation, and our scores are gradually going up.”
Like many band programs, Madill’s is not funded by the school budget. The program’s account had roughly $46 in it when Hasty took over the program. Through fundraisers and the band’s booster club, he said they managed to raise enough money to attend an out-of-state contest, the first in years, last year.
Still, funds are tight. Hasty’s office doubles as a workshop, with utility shelves, work tables and peg boards covered in hardware and tools and tape in at least five different colors. He spends his nights repairing instruments as much as possible, knowing full well that buying replacements isn’t feasible.
“Some of these I’m just piecing together until we can get enough money to replace it,” Hasty said. “We’re stretching the life out of everything we have.”
That includes their facilities. The band has outgrown its current practice space, the school’s auditorium and the elementary school stage. Last year’s construction bond includes plans to build a new fine arts building for the campus, with space for the growing band program. The new building will have two rehearsal spaces. Currently, the program is housed in a small metal building on campus, something Hasty said is far from ideal.
“This is the worst possible building to try to get 150 people into,” Hasty said. “The new one will be a real building, not a temporary one that’s been used for 35 years.”
Anyone who visits the current band building might notice that every other tile has been removed from the ceiling. Hasty said he did it to disperse the sound, which could reach a dangerous decibel when the band is practicing.
“With 150 people in here playing their instruments, it’s still high,” Hasty said. “I took those out to try to trap the sound a little. It looks weird, but I had to do something because it was dangerously loud.”
He said administrative, parental and community support has been key to the band’s progress. The administration tweaked the schedule so students could participate in as many extracurriculars as possible, the community voted to pass the bond and local organizations have donated equipment and funds for more instruments for the band. Hasty said the new instruments are being used alongside old ones in need of replacement, because of the band’s rapid growth.
“I get someone new almost every week who says they were in the band back in the 70s or 90s,” Hasty said. “For a long time, our band was not something to brag about, but now it’s getting to be something to brag about again, so they’re appreciative. Without all of that support, it would not be the same band.”