HVH band motivates director Ruffin

Photo By Kristen Luther
Lee Ruffin is in his 14th year as the director of the Happy Valley High School band.

By Greg Miller
star staff

  Happy Valley High School band director Lee Ruffin says the band's members motivate him.
  "I enjoy the band kids," he said. "They're a special group of people that will take a beating. They have a camp during the first of August, get out in the sun and march and play, and march and play, do it during the school day for an hour, do it after school."
  Students who participate in the band activities use both sides of the brain, according to Ruffin. "You're doing math," he said. "You're doing spatial relationships when you're marching. It teaches self-discipline and organization. It teaches them to grow up. My favorite saying is 'I'm not your mamma.' It's their responsibility. It's their band. I'm here to help coordinate and get things going, but when you get down to it, it's their band. Each year, it's their band. How do they want their band to be? Of course, I give them guidelines, and I try to make sure that they adhere to those guidelines. Then there's the self-pride, the self-worth ..."
  Last week was homecoming week at Happy Valley High School. "We had programs all morning," Ruffin said. "A lot of teachers aren't doing a lot of things because classes will get behind. The first three periods we're involved in programs, so they're not doing much. Well, where do they want to come? They want to come down here. This is where they want to be. After school, I usually have to drive them out of here so I can go home."
  Ruffin says he deals with the band members in a "very straightforward" manner. "I bring them in and if I have to chew them out, I'll chew them out," he said. "They know it's not done in malice. After I chew them out, I'll usually say, 'You know I love you, but this is what we've got to do.' They seem to respect that.
  "Performance is the chief motivator, whether it be marching season as it is now, or concert season after the football season is over. You're going to perform for somebody. It's a performance class. Grading is performance oriented. If the kid is trying their best and they're still not the best player in the world, then so be it. If they're giving it all they can do and they are truly trying, then they've got the A in the class." Goal setting and trips are other motivators.
  When the band attends marching competitions, Ruffin expects them "to play better than march, because we play all year long."
  Band members become a close family, according to Ruffin. "They get to know each other and hang out with each other," he said. "They start in the sixth grade and they continue on all the way up through the 12th grade, so they develop friends."
  The Happy Valley High School staff offers "great" support, Ruffin said. "The teachers are extremely supportive of the band program here and of the kids. We've got great staff here. We all kid around and have a good time."
  A small percentage of band members indicate that they are interested in a musical career. "In the total band right now, I've know of about five kids who have expressed a desire to continue," Ruffin said. "Some of them will continue on in college one way or the other."
  Participation in band can enhance a student's other classes. "Math and band usually go together like that, because you're making computations every measure," Ruffin said.