, 2014

Behind the Scenes:

Northumberland band director sets high expectation

by Shannon Rice

If it hadn’t been for his love of classical music, Northumberland County Public Schools’ band director Walt Mallorie could have easily found himself on a completely different career path. His original plan was to become an engineer.

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Walt Mallorie

“I have played drums since the fourth grade. When I went to college I went to an engineering school and got my first formal introduction to classical music in a music appreciation course. I loved it! When I found that engineering was not for me, I transferred to Youngstown State University in Ohio to pursue a music education degree,” laughs Mallorie.

Now in his ninth year in Northumberland schools, Mallorie wears many hats as band director. He is responsible for choosing and procuring all music that each of the school band groups plays, writing a field drill for marching band, putting together a halftime show and a parade routine, and teaching new marching band students how to march together. He also manages a budget for music, instruments and other needs, sets up concerts for students to show the community their level of competence, and plans annual band trips.

It all begins at the sixth-grade level however, when Mallorie helps students select and find an instrument, then teach them the proper way to play the instrument. In each grade level he must then help them understand what it takes to make themselves better players which he admits is not always easy.

“I am challenged by the few students who put themselves first and are not willing to work as a team to achieve our performance goals. There is also certainly a great time commitment to this position,” says Mallorie.

But of course there are rewards to the position as well.

“I enjoy getting to know the students, sharing their enjoyment of performing, and the opportunity to pick and teach music that is important,” says Mallorie.

The seasoned band director also has goals for his students which include helping them become the best musicians they can be, helping them develop an appreciation of good music, become good band students with a team spirit, and to enjoy experiences, like performing in front of a lot of people, that they would not otherwise have an opportunity to achieve.

While this may seem like a lofty list to some, Mallorie is not asking his students to do anything he doesn’t do himself. He is able to play all band instruments and teach the proper technique and fingerings for each. However, his primary instrument is percussion.

“It is the only group I have a high level of competence with,” says Mallorie.

Outside of school Mallorie plays with the Northern Neck Orchestra and serves on its board of directors. He also plays drums with the Kilmarnock and District Bagpipe Band.

“I also enjoy power drumming with the southern rock trio Pickett’s Charge,” says Mallorie.

Though he has a great love for classical music and enjoys exposing his students to this genre, his marching band selections tend to be more pop influenced.

“We have done a Stevie Wonder, a Motown and a Michael Jackson show. Last year’s show featured country, pop and rock with Magnificent 7, Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven,” says Mallorie.

On May 2, Mallorie will lead his students in spring concert featuring all of the schools’ bands from the 6th Grade Band to the high school symphonic band and jazz band.

The next day Mallorie will be traveling to Winchester to compete with the symphonic band and march in the Apple Blossom Festival’s Fireman’s Parade.

It’s all in a day’s work for Mallorie.

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