When he was in ninth grade, Douglas Brooks knew he wanted to be a high school band director.
He’d played the piano starting in kindergarten, and soon learned to play music by ear. In middle school, he started out in percussion, and served as a drum captain in high school.
“Music, to me, was in my soul,” said Brooks, 41, recently named the new band director at York Comprehensive High School. “That’s all I ever wanted to do. I love playing. I love teaching children, and teaching them to be creative and artistic, and I love to perform.”
Brooks, a Winthrop University graduate with 21 years of experience as a band director in South Carolina, will replace current YCHS band director Craig Davis next month. Davis is leaving the post in June to take a band director job in his hometown of Lexington.
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Brooks is currently employed as band director in his hometown, at Belton-Honea Path High School and Belton Middle School. The York school board last week approved the hiring of both Brooks and his wife, Laura Brooks, who will take a newly created job of assistant band director at YCHS.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Laura Brooks, 32, who is currently employed as head band director at Pickens High School. Laura Brooks said she commutes an hour each way to that job, and she and her husband are looking forward to spending more time together.
YCHS Principal Diane Howell said the school has had a part-time band assistant for one block. But Howell said she had been asking for an assistant band director position for years, and she said the district was able to create the full-time job without an added cost.
“We’ve needed more staff,” Howell said of the band program. “Our community expects our band to be competitive.”
Howell said she was very impressed with both Douglas and Laura Brooks during a series of interviews the school district conducted with the two and other band candidates. She also said she was able to observe Laura Brooks interact with her band during an event earlier this spring.
Howell said she questioned the couple about how they would lead the York band together, and she is satisfied that the arrangement will prove to be a good one. “I know it’s the right fit, for what we were looking for in a total band program,” Howell said. “They’re good people.”
Douglas Brooks said one of his most important mentors was former YCHS band director Frank Stewart, who retired in 2008. As a Winthrop student, Brooks worked with Stewart as an instructional assistant Andrew Jackson High School, before Stewart came to York. Brooks said he later did his undergraduate education clinicals in York.
“He became almost like a child in our family,” Stewart said about Douglas Brooks. “Now he’s grown, but he stayed with us in our house in the summer while we were having band practice.”
Brooks said he loves York County and always wanted to return here. “The program in York has historically always been very successful, and has been very important to that community,” he said.
Stewart said he was always impressed with Brooks’ work ethic, even when he was a student. “He’s one of those individuals who does whatever it takes to get the job done, and he’s extremely dedicated,” Stewart said. “I’m just excited that he’s here. It has been a dream of his.”
Stewart said running a band program is a demanding job. “It takes a really large team of people to do the things that high school bands are expected to do, and the kind of quality they’re expected to do,” he said. “And I think he and his wife will make a great time.”
Brooks said he and his wife — who met at a state music teachers conference in Charleston — are looking forward to working together. Laura Brooks, the daughter of two high school band directors, also has a long history in music.
“My wife is a fantastic teacher,” Brooks said. “She is the best band director I know. Why would I not want somebody like that teaching with me? And I would say that even if I was not married to her. I’m not saying that because she’s my wife, I’m saying it because it’s true.”
In terms of his goals for the band, Brooks said he wants to “carry on with what they’ve been doing, and take them to the next level.”
Brooks has held band director jobs in Williamston, Union and Kershaw before his current position at Belton-Honea Path. His bands have been recognized as state marching band championship finalists for 14 consecutive years. For six years, the bands received the designation of National Band Association Citation for Excellence for Marching Band.
He is credentialed in Advance Placement music theory and is in the process of obtaining an endorsement in Gifted and Talented.
School officials said within the next several weeks, the school plans to introduce the couple to the band students and will hold a reception to introduce them to the staff, parents and community.