BRIDGING the GAP

Paige Rose-era alumni group to play at Homecoming
By: 
Allison Cryer
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Alumni band is back this year after a decade-long hiatus thanks to a group of Jennings High School (JHS) graduates and a director that they say inspired them to exceed their potential, whose influence is still at work on her former students today.

The alumni band will be returning to Jerry Simmons Stadium and joining the JHS Pride of Jennings in the stands during the homecoming game against Westlake on Friday, Oct. 12.

“Come out and join us for a fun-filled night with lots of memories to bring y’all back to our years of Friday night lights,” Organizer Alison Tall Crader said. “We are dedicating this night to the one an only Paige Rose, our forever band director. All it takes is one song to bring back a 1,000 memories and the influence of a good teacher that can never be erased.”

Rose taught band at Jennings High School from 1994-2001 and in those few short years, she managed to make a huge impact on the students there, Crader said, taking the band program from around 40 students to an award-winning group comprised of over 100 members by the time she left to pursue her Master’s Degree in Music Education at McNeese.

“I’m so glad that this group has been formed,” Rose said. “I am thankful to Alison Crader, who made this go from an idea to fruition so quickly and I also appreciate everyone for reacting with so much spirit, as if it was 1990 something all over again.”

Crader said she never dreamed there would be so much interest and enthusiasm around getting an alumni band together.

“Nobody thought it would be this big,” Crader said. “I posted something to see if there was an interest and pretty much immediately we had more than 400 comments on that one post, mostly from those who had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Rose. So, I decided to start a Facebook page called ‘Paige Rose Era Alumni Band’ and it really took off from there.”

Crader, who graduated from JHS in 1999, said she originally played clarinet, then as a junior went to pit crew before joining drumline her senior year. She said she started thinking about getting an alumni band together after her 13-year-son, Acen, joined the band’s pit crew as a sixth grader last year.

“When my son joined I started getting really nostalgic,” she said. “So many memories came flooding back of those Friday nights spent singing and bouncing in buses down Louisiana highways to support the Bulldogs and perform at festivals on the weekends.”

She also said she saw a huge difference her son’s personality once he joined band and started learning to play music.

“He was always very quiet, and not one to open up,” she said. “But his director and the staff saw his potential and kept pushing him. Band has totally brought him out of his shell. I was completely blown away by the change I saw in him.”

The group worked together to come up with the theme, “The OG’s are back, bridging the gap.”

“We decided on the theme ‘bridging the gap’ because by playing with the current band, it is like we are bridging the gap between the ‘original gangsters’ and the next generation of band students through a shared experience,” Crader said.

Married with two children, Rose currently lives in Conway, Ark., and serves as the Department Chair and Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Central Arkansas. Rose was hired to be the band director at JHS just after getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Louisiana State University (LSU) and serving as the first female drum captain in the Golden Band from Tigerland’s history.

“Growing up, I was a pretty shy kid, but I was interested in both academics and sports,” Rose said. “To me marching band was the ultimate challenge because it is one of the few subjects that is all encompassing, combing the mental, physical and emotional aspects of learning together.”

After leaving her position at JHS in 2001, she went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Music Education from McNeese State University and subsequently her Ph. D. in Music Education from LSU in 2006.

Rose said she feels that the influence has worked both ways over the years.

“This was my first job right out of college,” Rose said. “My experiences there helped me to refine my leadership qualities and to become less quiet and reserved. It was at JHS that I found my calling. This is where is learned the importance of the connection with the students. I had always been a shy person and when you teach, you find confidence and you learn how to take on each type of personality. In those seven years, I learned the skills needed to reach every student, and how to find ways to inspire participation and get them engaged - whether it was going on a trip to Universal Studios to perform or just getting them out of the house on Friday nights.”

She said her time teaching at JHS would set the tone for the trajectory of her entire career.

“I still look back on that time, referencing all that I learned during those seven years,” she said. “It may have only been one stop on the train track of life, but all of those experiences really set the stage for my future. Part of the reason I went back to get my Master’s was because I wanted to improve my skills as a director, and that is where I ended up discovering my love for college-level education and helping other educators learn to teach music.”

Because band puts students of different grade levels, cliques and backgrounds together, Rose said that many friendships were formed that may never have happened otherwise.

“Band brings people together, and there is camaraderie between members that lasts a lifetime” she said. “Even when I was director at JHS, we always walked in twos, no student was ever alone.”

Trips to Florida, new uniforms and an even new instruments would never have been possible without the tireless efforts of parents and volunteers in the Band Booster Club, Rose said.

“I owe a lot of my success to the great moms and dads who were always there to support me,” Rose said. “I remember one time during my commute home to Lafayette, I ran out of gas and they came out to help me and ended up buying me a cell phone to keep me safe when traveling to and from Jennings.”

While Rose will not be able to attend the event this year due to scheduling conflicts, she said she definitely plans to make the trip back to Jennings for next year’s event.

“I hope this event continues for years to come, building enthusiasm around band for future generations” she said. “What a great legacy that would be! Also, I hope you all have a wonderful time reconnecting, cheering for the Dawgs, and playing music again.”

Rose asked that those in attendance Oct. 12 take a moment to remember the alumni that left too soon including Marcus Cain, Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno and Katreena Segura.

The deadline to register to join the alumni band is Friday, Sept. 28. So far Crader said there were around 50 people signed up, but she expects many more to sign up in the coming week.

Practice will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the JHS band room on Thursday, Oct. 11, to prepare for the homecoming game on Friday, Oct. 12. Sheet music will be given out at the rehearsal as well as T-shirts. Everyone must be in the stands by 6:30 p.m. Friday night in order to participate.

With the exception of drumline, all participants must provide their own instruments. Drums will be available, but anyone playing them must bring their own sticks, according to Crader.

“Even if you don’t have an instrument anymore and still want to attend, you are welcome to come and sit in the stands with us and and help us support the bulldogs,” Crader said.

Director of Bands at JHS Brandon Strain said that he has always dreamed of getting the alumni band back at homecoming games.

“One of my goals since I took over the band program at JHS has been to start an alumni band to perform with the current band in the stands at the homecoming game,” Strain said. “This year, along with the help from Alison Crader, we are finally going to make this a reality.”

Strain said the registration fees will help provide new instruments for the rapidly growing program, which is comprised of 210 students enrolled from grades 6-12.

“In the last two years, the band program has grown considerably,” Strain said. “This has caused us to have an instrument shortage and we have to scramble at the beginning of every year to find horns for students.”

A $20 donation, which includes a T-shirt for the night of the performance, will go directly to the purchase of new instruments for the students.

“If we can make this a regular thing, it will help the kids out tremendously,” Crader said. “In our day we worked so hard and I remember all the fundraising we had to do to make things happen. Are y’all ready to show these kids what we can do?”

Registration forms can be downloaded on the Facebook Page, “Paige Rose Era Alumni” or by contacting Strain at brandon.strain@jdpsbk12.org. Forms may be emailed to Strain or mailed to 2310 N. Sherman Street, Jennings, La., 70546, Attn: JHS Band. Checks or money orders for the fee must be made payable to JHS Band. Forms and fees may also be dropped off to Crader at 1011 N. Lake Arthur Ave., Suite 4.

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