Andrew Allen is the new Lake Wales High School band director.
A professional recording and performing musician who, for the last three years has found time to teach percussion at the high school, has plans for a phenomenal marching band and concert school year as the new band director.
Not only is he incredibly talented and filled with enthusiasm, as a young man age 26, he is close enough in age to his students to instill in them his enthusiasm.
The Highlander Marching Band will be presenting not one, but two shows this coming school year — one show that Allen will be writing and arranging himself.
“I have been involved in band all my life,” said Allen who is a native of Lake Wales and whose family participated in the LWHS Highlanders. “My mom was a bagpiper in the 1970s, my aunt was a piper, my father played saxophone, my brother a trumpet and me — I am a percussion drum major.”
One of the changes this year to the Highlander band is that audiences will see two drum majors on the field, Cameron Edwards and Brandon Alvarado who will be returning.
“I’ve always liked two drum majors to keep the band centered,” Allen said. “With two directors, band students not able to see one director can see the other on the field.”
Allen has been holding section camps since school let out for the summer working with each section including percussion and brass.
“We have four tuba players joining this year,” Allen said. “We lost our tuba player with graduation last school year and we have had students coming into the band from different middle schools from all around the county, not just from Bok (Academy) and McLaughlin (Middle School for the Arts).
He always makes sure to deliver an important message as he works with students.
“It has been a lot of fun working with the children and seeing what they can do,” Allen said. “I tell them ‘you can make a living being passionate about what you want to do and anything you do will be successful because the best go to the top.’ The kids can do something with music and have an impact. We have been working hard and have a lot of good work to do.”
Allen sees the band growing this year and it will be bigger than it was last year. He credits Principal Donna Dunson for that growth.
“She is passionate about the band and my being there and others are excited to see the band grow. We see community support,” he added.
Allen is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa in 2011. His third recording album of jazz was just released last week.
Being an arranger he is enthralled with the work of putting together a show for the marching band this year and then having two programs to share with the community and in competitions.
The first show is one that will include hits from the past year — 2013 — with arrangements by J.W. Pepper Company that Allen selected because he wanted to focus on the second show.
The second show will be “a one hundred percent Scottish-themed marching show because we are the Highlanders,” Allen said. “We have Cat McDonald and Jenny Metlock with their Scottish units and they are magnificent and we couldn’t do this without them.”
Allen will be writing eight minutes worth of Scottish music with two to two and a half minutes per song.
“Marching band shows run about eight minutes in length,” Allen said. “‘Tunes of Glory,’ will be the closer.”
Steven Alia of the University of Florida, “one of the best drill writers today, will write the drill marking the movements.”
Allen says that Alia and he have a simpatico that makes the drill writing and the music writing go easily hand-in-hand. The Highlander dancers will be dancing throughout the entire show.
Allen assures the community that the “Tunes of Glory” will be in the arranged show by Pepper too, because the band is the Highlanders.
Allen plans on using his Scottish creation for the Florida Bandmasters Association competition held each year for Polk County at Denison Stadium in Winter Haven in November.
“The bandmasters competition is like the FCAT for band directors,” Allen said.
Annual summer band camps will be held 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 4-8 and Aug. 11-15 at the high school to help students learn the shows. They will be working outside in the morning until noon because that is the “coolest” part of the day in the summer in Florida.
Allen has faith in his students.
“There is no reason we can’t be playing at the level of Bartow, Harrison, Lakeland Christian School (fine arts schools) because we are that good and can be that good,” Allen said. “These kids can play like they are at an arts high school. It is my job to get that music out of them. It is now the right time.”