The RMS beginning band typically has 250 to 300 students - that's generally 65-75% of RMS 6th-graders. The beginning band is split up into 11 like-instrument classes that occur throughout the school day. These individual classes allow for our students to progress much faster than most beginning bands. The students will combine into one band for our winter and spring concert. Students in 6th grade will perform at the annual Beginner "Informance", Caroling in the Halls, the Christmas Concert, Solo and Ensemble, and the Spring Appreciation Concert.
The Russellville Band Program is the largest student organization in the district. There are over 900 students that participate in the Russellville Band Program in grades 6 - 12. The band program consistently ranks among the top in the state in terms of performance quality and individual achievement. Our students routinely earn college scholarships and go on to have success both musically and academically in college. Our students are highly involved with other groups on campus - from sports to quiz bowl, if you see another group on campus, there's likely band members in that group.
The history of the Russellville Band Program is one that is filled with pride and tradition. The first bands in Russellville were "town bands" in the early 1900's. These bands were incorporated into the school system in the mid 1930's, and students were required to pay tuition to the director who would often teach in several different school districts. This practice continued until 1951 when Russellville hired its first full time director, Alex Hamilton. With the hiring of a full time director, the program blossomed.
B.J. Dunn was named band director in 1955. During Mr. Dunn’s tenure he oversaw the beginning of the junior high band program and the completion of the “new” band building which currently holds the Technology and Special Education Administration Departments for the district.
H.L. Shepherd became the band director in 1960, a position that he would maintain until his retirement in 1988. Mr. Shepherd held the first Appreciation Concert in the spring of 1961, a tradition that continues today. In the mid 1960's, the increase in numbers in the program required hiring an additional director and procuring more instruments. A junior high band director was hired, and instruments had to be borrowed from Arkansas Tech, Mt. Home, and several other surrounding schools. 1972 not only marked the opening of the new Russellville High School, but an incredible growth of the band program as well. Parents and their booster organization became the source of monies for the program as the beginning band doubled in size.
Travis Beard was hired in 1974 as the state’s first Sophomore Band Director. He replaced H.L. Shepherd as the High School Band Director in 1988. Mr. Beard remained the High School Band Director until 2004 when he stepped down to become the Russellville Middle School Band Director. During Mr. Beard’s tenure the program continued to increase in numbers and additional staff was hired for the middle school and junior high. In 1990 Dewayne Dove was hired as the Eighth Grade Band Director. Mr. Dove is the current High School Band Director and Music Coordinator for the district, a position he has held since 2004.
Excellence in performance began in the 1950's. Since that time, the bands have consistently received superior ratings in marching band, concert band, and sight-reading. Our students compete individually to earn positions in All-Region and All-State Bands. Pictures of the All-State students were originally placed on the walls of the band room, a tradition that continues today with the pictures hanging in the halls of the new fine arts facility. The band gained national recognition and was invited to march in the 1977 Presidential Inaugural Parade and the 1980 Cotton Bowl Parade. In 1997 the band was invited to march in the Inaugural Parade once again. In 2010, 2012, and 2015 the band performed in the Magical Music Days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Our bands have also performed at the Four States Music Conference, three ASBDA National Conventions, Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, MO, and The Music in the Parks Festivals in Louisville, KY and San Antonio, TX. The 2016-2017 school year has been an exciting year for the band program. The program was awarded the National Band Association’s Southwest Division Blue Ribbon of Excellence Award, and the RHS Band was selected to perform in the 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade. This past year our RJHS 9th Grade Symphonic Band performed as the 9EEE Honor Band at the Arkansas All-State Music Conference in February.
The Russellville Band Program has remained true to its founding vision - everyone participates and no one is left on the sidelines. Our bands continue to represent our community and school district well by placing in the highest categories in all contests. Other directors and teachers who are or have been a part of our program include: Stephanie Mikel, Cassie Whitworth, Paxton Taylor, David Gaston, Scott Johnson, Jeff Kee, Kim Parker, Sarah Abbott, Michael Tucker, Bob Brooks, Pat Ellison, Howard Ritchie, Don Dodson, Jerry Ratzlaff, Julia Reynolds, Jan Shaw, Amy Epperson, Tom and Jill Chentnik, Lisa Duquette Nelson, Sue Niven, Brad Coffman, and Laura Hunt.
In 2011, the Russellville Bands held their 50th Appreciation Concert at Tucker Coliseum. In 2012, a new era began as the high school bands completed their move into the new fine arts facility, and the Appreciation Concert split into multiple evenings of concerts at the new Center for the Arts on the campus of Russellville High School with concerts featuring all of the Russellville Bands.