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Triple S Band Director Brian Jones Talks Music & Community
Episode 2522nd April 2024 • Best of Johnston County • Jonathan Breeden
00:00:00 00:27:39

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In this inspiring episode of The Best of Johnston County podcast, join us as we sit down with the esteemed Triple S Band Director, Brian Jones. Dive into the world of music and community as Brian shares his experiences shaping young musicians and fostering a love for the arts in our county. 

Discover the impact of music education on our youth and the power it holds to unite us all. Tune in and be moved by the stories and passion behind our local music scene. Don't miss this harmonious blend of melody and community spirit!


Jonathan Breeden: [:

Brian Jones: I have two sons who are in high school, so they help me stay a little bit current because I don't listen to the music that's going on now and know all the trends. But I'll find out what it is to say, and I'll slip a saying in there and the kids will look at me like, okay, you're too old to be saying that or what have you.

But I have younger staff and they can help relate. but I mean, Kids are kids. I mean, I best thing we do is we try not to take ourselves too serious. We try to have a good time every day. We try to get to know each kid so that they know that we generally care for them.

And then once you build that up then we try to move in the right direction as you say. Yeah, I got you and it's a lot easier once, you have that connection.

he has called home for over [:

Jonathan Breeden: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Best of Johnston County podcast. I'm your host, Jonathan Breeden. And today we have with us the Triple S Smithfield summer high school band director, Brian Jones. And I believe the current North Johnston County teacher of the year, right?

Or was that two years ago? Two years ago. So anyway, the immediate past Johnston County teacher of the year. And we're going to talk to him about how he got to Johnston County? How he became a band director? And one of the reasons I really wanted to have a come on, we're going to talk about the Spartan Thunder Drum Corps.

e of Thunderstruck. Welcome, [:

Brian Jones: Thank you for having me.

Jonathan Breeden: All right, no problem. So we'll start with just tell the listeners. Who you are, where you're from, a little bit about yourself.

Brian Jones: Brian Jones, I'm from Danville, Virginia. Went to George Washington High School, graduated in 92 and made my way to East Carolina, go pirates. And left there. And I taught at a high school slash two middle schools.

I taught three schools and did the go around the County.

Jonathan Breeden: Okay.

Brian Jones: And that was at James Kenan High School. I did that for 6 years. And met my wife and so she was living in Raleigh and I was living in, Duplin County. The Smithfield job opened up and I've been at Smithfield for the last 21 years.

Jonathan Breeden: Golly, that's a long time.

Brian Jones: Yes.

een here since I came here in:

Brian Jones: Yeah. I was really active in the sports and band like growing up.

ace very early on and it was [:

I was sitting in band class and I enjoyed my class, my teacher and I was like, that's what I'm going to do. And I never really looked back.

Jonathan Breeden: Oh, that's awesome. It's funny, I had that same sort of epiphany in a 9th grade is taking the same civics class they teach in North Carolina now that they teach at all high schools.

And I'm reading the fellows papers and I'm like, this is fascinating. Like the creation of a government and for the people by the people. And I was like, I think I want to go to law school. You know what I mean? Just sitting in. So that's funny. 10th grade for you, 9th grade for me. I have a son getting ready to go into 9th grade.

I don't know if he'll have that same epiphany that we had in high school, but we'll see what happens. So anyway, you majored in music in East Carolina? I don't think about music majors. Is there like music trumpet or just music orchestra?

Brian Jones: Music education. So you can do music performance or music education. And I chose music education.

in the marching band in East [:

Brian Jones: Yeah. You have to be in the marching band for two years as just part of all music majors.

So, I did my two years and then college marching band is a little bit different than what I love and what we do at Triple S..

Jonathan Breeden: Okay, all right. So, do you enjoy being in the East Carolina marching band?

Brian Jones: I enjoyed meeting people. I went to school, like I said, in Danville, Virginia.

So, I didn't know anybody that went to East Carolina. And so I'm getting there a couple of weeks before school started and going through camp, I had like 150 people that I knew before classes even started. I think that was very important for me. I'm big into sports and so the time commitment of college marching band and you have to sit here. you know, I wanted to watch the games and be a part of the college atmosphere.

And so I said, after my two years, I was like, okay, I'm out.

Jonathan Breeden: Oh, cool.

cool. So you ended up in I think of James King is that Warsaw? Right, with Duplin County down towards Wilmington for people listening that don't know having then worked on football Friday for many,

many years, with,

uh, [:

I have been to a lot of these high school. So about James Kenan. They are very good in football. Uh,


So, were you with the marching band there? You come out of school and get a marching band job? Are you like an assistant to the band director?

Brian Jones: So, I graduated in December and I worked at a bank and lived with my dad in Durham. And then the band director who was at James Kenan had gotten sick.

And so I went and did a long term substitute. It was like two months, but end of the year. And then that teacher decided to retire. And I was looking at different jobs and I've enjoyed working there. And so I said, this will be a great place for me to start. Coming right out of college, not knowing if I'm going to be good at this, if I like this and to teach middle school and high school, it gave me the complete opportunity to see where I felt like it was my best spot.

Jonathan Breeden: Okay.

Brian Jones: and so,

years [:

Yeah. I had, 25% of the school in my class during third block.

I used to joke with the other teachers, what do y'all do during third block? Like, do y'all get out and eat? It was right about that size when I left after my 6 year.

Jonathan Breeden: So, when did you learn how to March? How to design shows, and the movement of all the people in the marching band? Did they teach that at East Carolina and music education?

Did you learn that in like a marching band grad school? How do you learn that?

ou pay somebody to write the [:

Some schools, in particular around here they, pay people to write just for their band. And so like that arrangement is like a one of a kind. Some directors will do it all. Very few, I would say probably, less than 5% who do it all. Now having said that my first year, when I started with 11 I also was the middle school teacher.

And so the way I built the program was, Hey, these kids, if I can make it exciting for them in middle school, then they'll come and join me. So when they were in eighth graders I said, how many of you want to go play for 30,000 people? And I took him to Duke band day and they gave you some arrangements.

I think it was like Superman, Indiana Jones, some of the like standards. And so then later that year, I wrote my own like little 20 movement marching band show and I got into the 8th graders. And then the hope was out of that 11, I think I had two they had two seniors but in 8th grade I had 30.

. And one year, if I do that [:

Jonathan Breeden: Okay, that's fascinating. So, what attracted you other than you want to be closer to your wife being in Raleigh to Triple S?.

Brian Jones: Like I said, at first it was location, It was tough leaving James Kenan. Like I said, I, also was a basketball coach there as a varsity basketball coach, and so, I was kind of like that community. I was just very attached to that community. It was a small community. I know there's no Walmart in Duplin County.

There's no movie theater. And so my parents were always checking me, are you okay? You know, And it fit me, you know, I went to work and I talked and then I coached and then I went home and watch TV and went to bed and did it repeated. And it was tough leaving James Kenan Smithfield, I called my high school band director and he told me like about Doc Wimley who was a friend of his and how Smithfield used to have one of the best programs in this area.

n I first got to Smithfield, [:

Jonathan Breeden: I got you. Now, Triple S has changed as Smithfield and Selma have changed over the 21 years you've been there. Talked about some of the changes you've seen there at the school, the number of students that are there.

Brian Jones: Yeah, so well, I think the students when I first got there, it was about what it is now, but then when they built Cleveland and what Corinth, then Smithfield became closer to about a thousand students. It's now built back up as Johnston County is booming and all the schools are crowded.

So, population is about the same. The facilities have definitely been upgraded. We're in Winley Hall. They named the new band room after Doc Winley. and,

hing our auxiliary gym where [:

And there's been a big makeover with that. As far as for me, the kids was pretty much the same.

Jonathan Breeden: Right, I don't know if the listeners realize and I don't know if you know this, but at one point Triple S, was it 45 or 50% of the students were Hispanic. Like now, isn't it almost half Hispanic?

Brian Jones: I think it's closer to 60.

Jonathan Breeden: Which is a different thing than you would think of as people listening to this Best of Johnston County. I don't think they realize, how diverse that school is with just a very large Hispanic population.

Brian Jones: Oh, correct.

Jonathan Breeden: Traditionally there is talented and musically as talented in their culture as any other. And I don't think people realize that either. I was just in Mexico a few weeks ago and some of the music and the musicians I was able to see his first time I'd ever been to Mexico were absolutely phenomenal. With traditional music and stuff like that.

gram. Our school is the most [:

Jonathan Breeden: And so, I guess talk a little bit about how the budgeting works? You know, We're out here, you know, got the Cleveland high school band. Your son's in that band raises and spends, what's that a quarter million a year? It's more than a quarter million a year. You're right. You know what I mean? My guess is you cannot do that at Triple S, so how do you provide a comparable program without raising 3 or $400,000?

Brian Jones: So that's one of the things I'm really proud of as the economy has passed McDonald's on the way here, it used to be $5 for a Happy Meal and that's now $10. Right. Right. So,

What the students pay right now is about the same that they paid 10 years ago to do the same thing. What we rely at Triple S is the fundraising.

supported the band program. [:

Jonathan Breeden: Right and so what does the band have to raise money for? Because I think people don't understand that the band really, I mean, there's one band director, you often need assistance, you need costumes. The concept of a marching band show now is completely different than it was 25 or 30 years ago.

eland and back could run you [:

That's just the travel. Now you need, to buy music. You need to buy the coordinates that they do. You have guard instructors, you have drum instructors. Costumes right now, it's come to a thing. We outgrew when COVID happened. We grew so much that we didn't have band uniforms that would fit every kid, and it takes about 8 to 12 months to get a band uniform. And so it was like, what are we going to do? So the new trend is digital tops. And they run about 75, $80 and then you do that every year. So that's the new thing of pretty much you're going to spend 10 to $12,000 just on band tops. every year moving forward. It's a


or the Cleveland high school [:

Not everybody can play at a 4A high school on a basketball team, but everybody that wants to can be in the band. And they just have to practice and show up and participate and have a good attitude. And that's the one thing it's the one extra curricular. At least in my mind, that truly is open to everybody.

And these kids get to go and perform. you went to MetLife stadium in New Jersey where the New York Giants play a couple of years ago, those kids got to play in the same stadium as where they played the Super Bowl and that's a tremendous experience.

ain and so anything that any [:

Brian Jones: You talked about the MetLife Stadium, we took him into Manhattan and we spent a day there and you take it for granted. I grew up in Virginia, but I probably went to New York 4 or 5 times before I went to college. And I went to Disney World several times. I didn't realize how fortunate I was growing up until you're on a bus.

With a bunch of kids and you just look back and they're all crying and you're trying to figure out why are you crying and they're seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. And it gets very emotional to you that you can just see it or you get a letter from a kid 10 years after you've taught them and they're like, Hey, they're taking their family to Disney world.

And they just were thinking about their first experience at Disney World and wanted to thank me for taking them. So it's like, that's the stuff, the music and the marching, that's all great. But it's those experiences that make somebody last as long as I have. I understand that.

Have family law [:

Jonathan Breeden: So, how did you get a hundred, 120 kids in your band? All going in the same direction for a 12 minute show?

Well, I've got a great staff. Um,

you know,

Brian Jones: I think

Jonathan Breeden: you know, and

Brian Jones: I know I don't want to talk basketball, especially with state and Duke this year, but I patterned the Coach K model, his assistants are his former players.

And all of my staff has ties to me and former students. And so we don't have as many, but everybody takes pride in what it was like to wear that uniform and to be a part of the program. And we're all on the same page of what we're trying to do as a group.

wing that we have less staff [:

Jonathan Breeden: Okay.

Brian Jones: Well,

Jonathan Breeden: What is the way to connect with high school kids? I've been doing this a long time. There's parents out there. They have high school kids. Maybe they listen. Maybe they don't listen. How do you connect with them?

Brian Jones: I have two sons who are in high school, they help me stay a little bit current because I don't listen to the music that's going on now and know all the trends. But I'll find out what it is to say, and I'll slip a saying in there and the kids will look at me like, okay, you're too old to be saying that or what have you.

But I have younger staff and they can help relate. Kids are kids. The best thing we do is we try not to take ourselves too serious. We try to have a good time every day. We try to get to know each kid so that they know that we generally care for them.

And then once you build that up then we try to move in the right direction as you say. I got you and it's a lot easier once you have that connection.

line, but it's way more than [:

Brian Jones: Okay. Yeah, And I want to be, yeah. we'll make everybody listen up. Because I don't want to take credit for things that are not me. So,

We started Spartan Thunder in:

I don't know if you're familiar. A lot of the programs here do indoor drum line or percussion. They compete, it's like a winter guard competition, but with drums. And those things can cost 40 or $50,000 to do, and we just don't have that. And so what could we do? And I was talking with my drum instructor at the time and he was telling me this thing at Western that they do called Purple Thunder.

stin and I was like, this is [:

Can, Will you write me a show? He said, just send me the three teams you want. And so that's how it started. Justin at the time was, he was a car salesman and as we started getting Justin involved, Justin became my drum instructor. And then he kept writing. Then Justin became a TA at my school. And,

So he was working with the drum line during the day. And then he took Spartan Thunder to just this next level. Like it started out with three or four hip hop songs on the radio that everybody knew and then it turned into more themed shows. And so I think the first big one we did was the Avengers and all the kids were dressed up like the Avengers superheroes.

Okay And then over COVID, how do you teach over COVID? you know, because

e and you'd have a girl do a [:

And toward the end of the year, when we were able to come back we put that show together. And then we did a big video with that. Justin had one of his buddies from Western Carolina come up and they shot it all in one day. And then that video went viral.

And that's when the indoor percussion competitions that we couldn't afford to go to, they had a creative since it was all virtual that year, they had a creative category and we were able to send our video and it was like 1 of 10 videos in the whole country picked.

And so that video was shown and now people like, who love drumming from all over the country. Now know what Spartan thunder is. Oh, okay.

And, so then from then, it's just like, then that video helped recruit as well. And so then, Justin just every year has just gotten, he's always been the best, but he's just gotten better and he's put more into it.

out it like a year and a bit [:

under, under wrap, but now he's planning these things in a year where in year one, it was a Christmas parade on December 2nd. We planned it, we wrote it on that weekend and then we're performing it in January.

So it's really put together. Right. So, I mean,

Jonathan Breeden: So now it's got more than just drummers in it. So how many kids are in what would be the start Spartan Thunder show now?

Brian Jones: I think this year there's 48. So depending on the theme, so it went from Avengers to he did James Brown and then it went to Michael Jackson last year. And so when he went into Michael Jackson, he thought about, what if I add some winds? We have a saxophone player at our school that's phenomenal like he's he's incredible.

in middle school who played [:

Jonathan Breeden: Well That's awesome and then last year's show. The Michael Jackson thing ended up landing with one of Michael Jackson's nephew, I guess, Tito Jackson's son. And I think he shared it with the family and made some very positive comments about it. And it was phenomenal show. I got to see it in person.

I got to see it on YouTube. And if you like Michael Jackson, as much as I do, it was really good. And they had somebody dressed up as Michael Jackson and they came in and did the moonwalk the whole 9 yards.

Brian Jones: And just that video. So the fire video, we had somebody come in and do it.

Justin actually did all of the video editing for the Michael Jackson video that you see on YouTube. It's like WRAL picked that one up. And,


d it's been really cool like [:


Jonathan Breeden: it's,

It really is a phenomenal show. And I'm not just saying this I've seen some, I was fortunate enough a few years ago to go to Scotland and go to the tattoo. And in at the tattoo, which is this huge celebration of music that they do in Scotland, they bring some in some of the top drum groups in the world.

And I would put what I saw with Michael Jackson up there with any of the drum groups I saw in Scotland at the tattoo. It really is phenomenal, enjoyable, and you cannot watch it. The show's usually 10 to 15 minutes and not just smile. And you just can't, you can't watch it and not smile. And that's what I'm telling everybody. If you've not seen it. Go to as far as on YouTube page now?

't have our guitars and horn [:

But he's still got some other props and surprises that even the kids don't know about. We're going to be performing May 9th through 11th as our big percussion theater. And it's basically an hour long show of lots of different comedy and percussion type acts. And then at the end of each show in the gym, we're going to perform Thunderstruck.

Jonathan Breeden: And I went to that last year and that was really a lot of fun and got to see that's the only time I got to see the Michael Jackson show live. And that was really good. And I really enjoyed that. So I would encourage anybody that's interested in band or percussion find Spartan thunder on YouTube or Instagram the Michael Jackson show this year's Thunderstruck show.

I hear it's really good. I'm sure it is. Anything with Spartan thunder is great. So as we sort of wrap this up you've lived here in Johnston County now the last 20 somebody years, you've taught in the Johnston County public schools. What do you love most about Johnston County?

ty. I love the location just [:

you know, I was trying to think of Johnston County, but I felt like Johnston County is still different depending on what part you live. And so I think the best way I could answer that is just from Smithfield. Like what I love mainly about teaching at Smithfield. And I think that is just the community has always been supportive.

My administration at the school, I've had 6 different principals and they've you know, put kids first and then like I said, the kids and parents. I mean, I think, you know, Everybody's buying into the want to be a part of the team. I want to make the team better, it keeps me young.

Like I said, I just turned 50 in January And

uh, but I still feel you know you know, like that kid that started 27 years ago. Because the kids that I teach are still the same age. That's what I love. I love, you know being near big areas, but still feeling a little bit small.

hool road. I feel like we're [:

Jonathan Breeden: We'd like to thank Brian Jones, the Triple S band director for coming in and being our guest on The Best of Johnston County podcast today. If this is your first time listening to this podcast.

We would love it if you would like, subscribe or follow this podcast. Wherever you were seeing it, whether it be YouTube, Spotify, Apple podcast or on any of our social media pages TikTok, whatever. So that you'll be aware of any future episodes of The Best of Johnston County podcast, The Best of Johnson County podcast comes out every Monday.

And if you've not listened to any prior episodes, please go back and listen. We've had some great guests so far, including Patrick Harris, County Commissioner, Dr. Tim Sims, a Local Dentist. We had Chris Key, a Financial Advisor. We had Adrian O'Neal, the county parks rec director. And so if you love Johnston County as much as I do, this is the podcast for you.

and we're always going to be [:

That's the end of today's episode of Best of Johnston County, a show brought to you by the trusted team at Breeden Law Office. We thank you for joining us today and we look forward to sharing more interesting facets of this community next week. Every story, every viewpoint adds another thread to the rich tapestry of Johnston County.

If the legal aspects highlighted raised some questions, help is just around the corner at www. breedenfirm. com.





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