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Musical chairs: Catawba Ridge, Nation Ford high schools name new band directors

Nation Ford among York Co. bands headed to competition ‘to see where they stand’

Marching bands from Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Rock Hill, York and Clover high schools will compete in the Bands of America regional event in Gaffney. Other bands gear up for South Carolina championships.
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Marching bands from Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Rock Hill, York and Clover high schools will compete in the Bands of America regional event in Gaffney. Other bands gear up for South Carolina championships.

Catawba Ridge High School didn’t have to look far for its new band director. Neither did Nation Ford High School.

Martin Dickey, director at Nation Ford since it opened in 2007, is moving to the new high school in the Fort Mill school district. Dickey’s move to Catawba Ridge opens the door for Ray Linkous to take over at Nation Ford.

“Both Mr. Dickey and Mr. Linkous have been outstanding educators of our students and leaders of the Nation Ford band program,” said Chuck Epps, district superintendent. ”These transitions will allow the tradition of excellence established at Nation Ford to continue, and provide a strong foundation for the new program at Catawba Ridge.”

Marching bands are one of the defining examples of Fort Mill schools’ success statewide.

Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools combine for 31 state championships and a long list of regional and national event placements, parades and international trips. The schools have produced several U.S. Army All-American performers.

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Band directors also lead concert and other band instruction and competition at their schools.

Dickey and Linkous will step into their new roles beginning July 1, 2019.

Dickey, a part of the Fort Mill district for 26 years, will become the first person to lead bands at all three district high schools. He held the top job at Fort Mill since stepping in as a co-leader in 1994, then as solo director the following year. Fort Mill started a streak of five straight state marching band championships in 1995. Fort Mill won three more in a row, from 2003 to 2005.

Dickey joined Nation Ford when it opened in 2007, and kicked off three straight again from 2009 to 2011, then again from 2015 to 2017. A win in 2013 gives Nation Ford seven in just more than a decade under Dickey.

“In 2007 I opened Nation Ford High School and have enjoyed every minute at the school,” Dickey said. “With the growth of the district comes Catawba Ridge and it is exciting for me to provide the same opportunity for our newest member of the school family.”

Dickey calls Catawba Ridge an “awesome addition” to the district and looks forward to building another strong program.

“The students, parents, faculty and community will make Catawba Ridge a great environment for students to learn and excel,” he said. “While some look at the growth as a negative, I believe it is an outstanding opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of our students.”

While the Nation Ford band is losing its only director and the overseer of considerable band success there, Dickey didn’t do it alone.

Linkous has been assistant band director at Nation Ford since the school opened. He also teaches band at the school. He served before that as band director at two schools outside South Carolina.

“It is such an incredible honor to be selected as the new band director for Nation Ford High School,” Linkous said. “Fort Mill has a well-known history of outstanding band programs that spans for decades.”

Linkous credits the school board, administration and individual school leadership for that success. Linkous said he considers himself “very lucky” to work with Nation Ford principal Jason Johns, and calls Dickey “a true mentor.”

“You could not ask for a better administration, staff and teaching faculty to work with,” Linkous said. “Nation Ford is a special place to be.”

Linkous believes Dickey will start up a third strong band program in the district. Having seen one quality band become two in the district with the opening of Nation Ford, leaders expect something similar when Catawba Ridge opens.

“It seems obvious that strength through the continued unity of our community is more powerful and beneficial than operating as separate entities,” Linkous said.

Both directors will have challenges ahead of them.

York County is a hotbed for high school band success, from marching bands to concert to state and even larger competitions. In marching band alone, county high schools combine for 39 state championships among Fort Mill, Nation Ford, York, Clover and Northwestern high schools.

Nearby Lancaster and Chester counties add 18 more among Indian Land, Lewisville, Chester and Great Falls high schools.

Marching Band State Titles Schools from York, Lancaster and Chester counties
School State Titles Most Recent
Fort Mill 24 2014
Indian Land 8 2001
Nation Ford 7 2017
Lewisville 7 1987
York 5 2003
Clover 2 2007
Chester 2 1966
Northwestern 1 2008
Great Falls 1 2000
SOURCE: S.C. Band Directors Association

Catawba Ridge High School opens next fall. The school district previously named its first principal, long-time Fort Mill principal Dee Christopher, and its athletic director, former Myers Park High School (Charlotte) athletic director Rick Lewis.

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