How the Morgan Wallen Foundation is helping to buy drums for the Powell High band

There’s more to the Powell High School band than what’s seen on Friday nights in the fall.

“The band is the most visual representation of our school,” said band director Andrew Smith. “We play all year ‘round.”

Besides pregame and halftime at football games, the band is a regular participant at community events. Parades, shows and festivities − like the recent dedication of the remodel of the Clinton Highway Walmart − are all opportunities to perform.

But, even birthday parties?

“(On a Sunday in early May) we were asked to perform at a 5-year-old’s birthday party,” Smith said. “The theme was the ‘Vol Walk’ (when the University of Tennessee football players enter the stadium with fans cheering and the band playing ‘Rocky Top’ on either side of them). We had 20 or 25 members volunteer to play ‘Rocky Top’ a few times.

“Any time we’ve asked our members to be part of an event, I’ve never had a moment when I heard ‘no.’ They always want an opportunity to play music.”

The band experience can create friendships for life. Provided By Powell High School Band

Instruction, transportation costly

A quick assessment of the inner workings of the band shows that music isn’t cheap. Smith said each member of the band, and there are more than 90, pays between $500 and $600 each year. Those fees cover the band’s operating costs.

The two biggest expenses for a band are instruction and transportation. The music the band decides to use is $5,000.

The instruction is the five or six supplemental staff that Smith and his assistant use. One person has the very complicated challenge to design the “drill,” meaning how each of the band members goes from Point A to Point B. Smith said almost all the Knox County Schools hire outside help.

Buses used to get the band wherever it needs to go aren’t cheap.

While the operating costs are substantial, that doesn’t leave any room for big ticket items … like new drums.

That’s where the Morgan Wallen Foundation comes in.

Each member of the Powell band pays a participation fee, but expenses for travel and instruction are high. Provided By Powell High School Band

More help is needed

Wallen is a very successful country singer who graduated from Gibbs High School. He was a standout baseball player until his junior year when an elbow injury ended his career. He turned to music and is now one of the hottest commodities in Nashville.

His foundation is designed to help youngsters in their athletic or musical pursuits. Recently, the Powell High School band program was given a $7,500 grant from the foundation that will go toward the purchase of new drums.

A complete drum line, the only way drums can be replaced, costs between $20,000 and $24,000. Included in the set are six bass drums, five snares, three tenors, stands, harnesses, heads, sticks, covers and cases.

Smith said the lifespan of a drum line is usually 12 years. Powell’s set just finished its 13th year.

“We’re doing a lot of fundraisers to get the money,” Smith said. “We won’t buy anything until we have all the money. I don’t want to deal with any debt. I want to buy it outright and be done with it.”

Smith said Teresa Booth, president of the band’s booster club, has applied for several grants. Wallen’s was the first to come through.

“We’re fortunate to be in a community that is so supportive,” Smith said. “That’s why we’re always ready to give back.”