As high school seniors graduate, most band students and football players close the door on their musical career and hang up their cleats. Gone are the days of endless hours of practice, playing/ marching at football games, or participating in competitions and games. Their instruments and gear are placed aside as their lives take a new direction of pursing a professional career.
Fortunately, there are a few former Blount County students who have chosen to continue to use their talents either in their career or as a hobby. The Blount Countian caught up with several former students who now attend UAB to learn of their collegiate experience thus far.
Carley Clayton, a Locust Fork graduate, entered her freshman year as part of the marching band and the symphony band. She plays the clarinet. Clayton chose to join the band, as music was a big part of her high school life that she truly loved. She did not want that to end. Clayton says that band does not interfere with her study time. She also uses band as a way to de-stress.
Because of joining the band, Clayton entered her freshman year with the luxury of having friends she met at band camp to help her along the way. They were able to offer much needed support, to advise her on which teachers to take for classes, and productive ways to study.
Clayton says that UAB has a great band program. In addition to new friendships, she likes the fact that every UAB band student receives a scholarship. The more bands one participates in, the more scholarships that are made available for the student.
Rebecca Cater is a Hayden High graduate who is now in her junior year at UAB. Because of the demands of nursing school, Cater has not been able to participate as much as she would like with being in ensembles. She plays the flute and has been a member of the symphony band, the Blazer band, and the marching band.
Cater began to consider UAB when she attended with the high school honor band. She fell in love with the layout of the campus, and the kindness she received from the instructors and faculty. She credits the band faculty as being kind and smart people who go above and beyond to help individuals who may not have the same musical knowledge as others.
One of Cater’s favorite memories of high school was performing on the football field under the lights for the crowd. Since the return of UAB football, Cater has once again been able to experience the thrill of performing to a much bigger crowd. And because of a very successful year at football, Cater had the pleasure of traveling to the conference championship at Middle Tennessee, the bowl game in Boca Raton, Fla., as well as the championship bowl in the Bahamas.
Cater acknowledges she has gained more leadership skills by being a part of the band. She has been elected to be the first Head Row Leader for the UAB bands during the marching season, a part of Kappa Kappa Psi, the co-ed fraternity that services the UAB band program by helping paint the practice field, carrying water into the games, and dealing with the equipment that is involved in making the halftime shows a success.
Given the chance to go back to her senior year, she would make the same choice to become a part of the band. She said, “I love my band program and I hope this will encourage other members from my high school or other high schools to consider doing band in college and, even better, consider joining my UAB band family. It is worth the extra time commitment.”
Sarah Ratliff, a former Locust Fork High School majorette for four years, is now a UAB freshman. She had considered several other colleges prior to choosing UAB. She is happy she chose to become a part of the UAB Blazer student population. She loves being a part of the Blazer band as a majorette. She said it helps her to decompress when days are really tough.
Ratliff, who is majoring in kinesiology said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my freshman year. Birmingham is pretty and the UAB campus is beautiful. I actually enjoy going to school.” She noted that the success of the football program last year has enhanced her enjoyment of school.
For those searching for a college, Ratliff encourages them to look into attending UAB. It is close to home, but has outstanding opportunities academically and through extra-curricular activities.
Chase Biles, a junior who is majoring in education, chose to attend UAB for a continued opportunity to play football. Biles has had standout plays, but one that was highlighted happened during the Oct. 13, 2018, UAB-Rice game. Biles blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for UAB to take the lead 14-0 during the first half of the game.
Biles, who has lived both on and off campus, said he has had a great experience by attending UAB. His experience has been so good that he whole-heartedly recommends others consider UAB for post-secondary education.
UAB band spokesperson Kiera Ryan confirmed that there are currently 215 members who are a part of the UAB band family. The marching band includes band members, drum majors, and auxiliary members such as majorettes. Other opportunities to participate include becoming a member of the wind symphony, which is the top 60 members to try out, or the entry-level symphony band.
Ryan said that instrumentalists must try out each year to become a member of any of the bands. Once it is determined which bands a member becomes a part of, the scholarships are then allocated. The more bands a student participates in, the more scholarships they are given. Scholarships range from $500 to as much as $8,000.
While most students wait until later in the spring, the UAB band has already begun auditions for the fall semester. The auditions will continue until the end of May. Auxiliary auditions for the Blazerettes dance team, colorguard, and majorettes were held April 13. Ryan suggests getting the UAB application sent in as soon as possible. Once accepted into the school, a letter of acceptance from the band will need to be signed.
While the transition from high school to college can be a challenge, these former Blount County students have proven that choosing UAB for their continued education has been an overall positive experience and they recommend that other local students consider UAB when searching for colleges to attend.
To apply to UAB, students will need to submit a completed application, $30 application fee, an official high school transcript, and an official ACT or SAT score submitted directly from ACT or College Board. The deadline for priority consideration for the upcoming fall semester is June 1. Go to www.uab.edu/ students/admissions/apply for more information.