Family band: Honored father from Saks will watch his grown children direct their own school bands
by Laura Johnson
Feb 02, 2013 | 9436 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Saks High School band director Gene Inglis leads his students during practice Thursday. Inglis has been named the music teacher of the year by the Alabama Music Educators Association. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Saks High School band director Gene Inglis leads his students during practice Thursday. Inglis has been named the music teacher of the year by the Alabama Music Educators Association. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
When veteran high school band director Gene Inglis learned his adult children had been selected to lead the Calhoun County Honor Bands performance today, it was a little like a surprise birthday present.

But it wasn’t the only surprise the veteran band director has received recently.

Last month Inglis, who turns 63 today, was named the Alabama Music Educators Association music teacher of the year for his work as band director at Saks High School. Today, he plans to watch two of his children, who have also led marching and concert bands, direct Calhoun County’s Honor Bands.

The performances, one by junior high students and the other by senior high students, begin at 3 p.m. at Anniston High School.

“It’s certainly a different feeling,” Inglis said Friday in the AHS auditorium, referring to what it’s like to see his children direct bands. “I want them to enjoy it as much as I enjoy it.”

The two bands comprise the best students at each school in the county. Performing once a year after three relatively brief rehearsals, the bands are led by guest conductors, who this year happen to be Inglis’ own children.

Inglis spoke as his son, Tony Inglis, began leading the high school band Friday in the band’s first rehearsal for today’s performance. Meanwhile, Gene Inglis’ daughter, Gaston School band director Gena Nix, began rehearsing nearby with the junior high group.

Gene and his wife, Shenley Inglis, have three children, one of whom, Allison Brown, teaches school in Oxford. Gena Nix and Tony Inglis said they take the same disciplined approach to directing that their father does.

“He is what I consider to be the epitome of being a band director,” Tony Inglis said.

Gena Nix said she didn’t realize how similar her directing style was to her father’s until her students pointed it out after a joint rehearsal.

“It’s really incredibly similar and it really wasn’t known to me,” Nix said. “My students would say, ‘Oh my gosh, y’all are like the same.’”

The elder Inglis is composed, direct and slightly animated in the band room.

“He just knows exactly what to say to get what he wants to get from the students and they respond to it,” said Jared Holland, Weaver High School’s band director.

During a recent weekday rehearsal, Gene Inglis wore a burgundy sweater vest over a white button-down shirt. His palms swayed and bobbed as his students played bits of a composition on cue.

“A second is a second. A minute is a minute,” Inglis said to encourage his students to keep time. “You have a time responsibility in your music. That’s how we stay together.”

Some have said Inglis’ success in the high school band room is similar to Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s success on the football field.

“It’s a great program,” said 21-year-old Byron Jackson, a former Inglis student who returns to volunteer. “It changed my life. He really kept me on the straight and narrow.”

Inglis’ career began at an Alabama middle school but blossomed at a high school in Rome, Ga., where he developed an award-winning program. After retiring from the Georgia system, he moved back to Alabama and began work at Saks High School in 2003.

In the decade that passed, Inglis developed another award-winning program. Trophies line the shelves that surround his cinder-block band room.

“He is considered by my faculty as possibly the best teacher on the campus,” said Saks High School Principal Jody Whaley, who nominated Inglis for the award.

Moving from Georgia, where he had established a renowned program, to Alabama, where he was unknown wasn’t a seamless transition for Gene, son Tony Inglis said.

“When he came back to Alabama he really kind of had to establish himself,” the son said.

But it didn’t take long. Gene Inglis has always been respected by students, Tony said.

“It was amazing to me how quickly things turned around,” he said.

The son is just one of many who say his dad deserves the state Music Educator Association award, not just for his ability to direct bands but also for his ability to direct student achievement. The veteran band director, however, has a different perspective on his achievement.

“I love what I do,” Inglis said. “Anything I’ve received in terms of awards is really a reflection of the students’ work.”

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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