By Denise DuBois
March 12, Smiths Station High School band director Gene Butler led his bands through a benefit concert at the Opelika Performing Arts Center at Opelika High School. The concert featured four Smiths Station junior high and high school bands, Beulah High’s band, and Beauregard High’s band. The concert raised more than $4,500 for tornado victims.
Butler wrote the following after the concert: “Thank you to the students for their outstanding performances, especially considering we had been out of school for 10 days including weekends. Thank you to all of the Band Directors in Lee County. John M. Hillsman, C.J. Ellis, Shane Colquhoun, Shawn Geiger, and Chris Helms.
Thank you to Susan L. Smith, Rusty Courson, and Steve McLendon for sharing comments with each of the bands on their performance. Thank you to Asst. Superintendent Dr. Jason Wright and all of the administrators from Lee County who were in attendance. Thank you to Alex Johnson for facilitating the event. Thank you to Opelika City Schools for donating their auditorium! Thank you to Neil Sasser and Mike McGlynn for your help with equipment. Thank you to all of the band directors in our district who attended the event. Thank you to Art’s Music for donating the programs. Thank you to our dinner sponsors. They donated enough food to feed all 400 students. Gadsden Music, Chick-fil-A—Phenix City, Chick-fil-A —Tiger Town, Mike & Ed’s of Smiths Station, 13th Street BBQ, and Papa John’s. This was truly a collaborative event that our community rallied behind. Thank you to everyone who had a part in helping pull off this event.”
This is the first year that Smiths Station hasn’t taken bands to the state music performance assessment, also known as state contest. It was also the first year the school would have taken four bands to the contest.
“This time of year, we’re typically preparing for the state music performance assessment,” Butler said, following the storms. “We work on music in January through February. Smiths Station has been going to state contest since the early 90s. In light of the events taken place, this is the first year we have not gone. With the tornadoes that came through the area, not understanding the devastation that had happened in the community yet, we scheduled all our bands to perform on Tuesday. Then on Monday morning as we learned more, we had the option of rescheduling, but we decided to cancel our performance this year because our community had much higher needs than us performing at the state assessment.”
He said it was a really easy decision to make for him and the assistant band directors.
The band, instead, worked to raise donations for storm victims and prepared for the benefit concert.