Ty Parker with the Arab Knight, his new school’s mascot. (Photo courtesy Ty Parker)
ARAB – Over the Labor Day weekend, The Tribune caught up with former West Point and Good Hope director of bands and many other creative things, Ty Parker, who is now band director for Arab High School. Though he commutes across the county line to work now, he is still very much a Cullman County man.
In email correspondence, Parker talked about growing up in Vinemont and getting into music:
“Cullman County will always hold a special place in my heart. For those who do not know, I was born and raised in Vinemont and attended Vinemont School for 13 years. I have to say that band literally saved my life! I was bullied everyday of middle school and some during my freshman and sophomore years for being short, chubby, and for being a musician.
“Funny fact, I almost destroyed the arches in my feet after years of putting socks in my shoes to be taller in middle school. I had to overcome this foot problem when I began pursuing my passion for long distance running and later completing an Iron Man race in 2015.
“Why do I say all of this? Band gave me hope. Music gave me a reason to live. Ironically, I never wanted to be a band director. I worked in a fan factory after graduating from Vinemont and would find myself designing halftime shows while listening to 106.9 the Eagle. The song ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ by the Rolling Stones came on and I knew I just had to be a band director.
“The past eight years working for Cullman County has been an amazing time. By God’s grace, I have witnessed two programs double in size, revived a theatre department, and started an in-school dance studio. My friends and colleagues would sometimes laugh at me and tell me I was taking on too many things at work. After long days at work I would sometimes ask myself the same thing. I always came to this conclusion: this is my ministry and I am here to serve the students at my school. If one more activity can give hope to just one more student, it is worth every minute of my day.”
Parker had to pass along a word to his former students in the West Point High School marching band, which he watched march into the stands on the other side of the field last Friday evening: “Watching my West Point students perform last Friday night was so rewarding! Their show was fun, entertaining and performed very well. I would not expect anything less from them!”
Working in Arab
“Arab is now my new mission field,” said Parker. “The community of Arab, just like the other two I have worked with, is an amazing place to be. I have tremendous parent support, support from my colleagues, support from the board, and excellent support from my superintendents.”
What happened to “Dixie?”
At the beginning of the school year, the Arab school system announced that the high school’s longtime tradition of playing “Dixie” as its unofficial team fight song was ending. Naturally, the announcement coinciding with the arrival of the new band director raised some eyebrows, but Parker shared:
“Several of my Cullman County friends have asked about the removal of ‘Dixie’ as our unofficial fight song at Arab. Mr. (John) Mullins, the superintendent, worded this explanation in a very positive way:
As superintendent, the decision to retire ‘Dixie’ fell upon me. Please know this difficult decision was not made lightly, arbitrarily, or unilaterally. During the decision making process, the viewpoints of numerous (current and former) school board members, administrators, band directors, and football coaches were heard. While traditions are important and change is difficult, the discontinuation of playing “Dixie” assures us that the controversy and negativity associated with the song cannot be unfairly transferred onto our school district and, more importantly, onto our students.”
Still a fan of Cullman County
Said Parker, “With all of this said, I love Cullman County! The students I’ve had the honor of teaching in Cullman have changed my life for the good. I will always miss my colleagues and the principals I have worked for. To Billy Coleman, Craig Ross and Shane Barnette, I thank you for allowing me the time to serve Cullman County. To the students Jessica (Patterson) and I left behind, keep doing what you’re doing. Always pursue excellence, always provide hope for someone, take up for the downtrodden, and never back down from the bullies in life. Instead, pray for them. As I have always said, hurting people hurt others.
“May this year for Cullman County schools be the best yet! P.S. someone keep an eye out for my mom. She still works in the central office. :)”
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