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Strike up the band!

New director looking to build up CHS band program

Posted: September 27, 2012 8:01 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Miciah Bennett/C-I

Camden High School’s new band director Robert Spitler and his brass-section mentor, and CHS alumni, William “Rusty” Major discussed their hopes for the future of the CHS band program. Tonight, several CHS band alumni will join CHS’s current band students in playing the school’s alma mater and fight song. Spitler joined CHS faculty this year after gaining five years of experience growing a band program at a high school in North Carolina.

Camden High School’s (CHS) new band director is looking to add more trophies to the band room’s display.

Robert Spitler graduated from the University of South Carolina (USC) with a degree in music performance, and is glad to be back in South Carolina. Spitler has a K-12 education certification in both North and South Carolina and has held a few positions in both states: he taught at Hunter-Kinard-Taylor High school in Orangeburg; and Manning Junior High and Pasquotank High School (PHS), both in North Carolina.

Spitler taught at PHS for five years and built the band program from 15 students to 90 before deciding “it was time for a change.”

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) helped Spitler; his wife, Margaret; and their three children, Madison, Makayla and Ethan, relocate to the area.

“I always wanted to come back to the area. I’m very happy to be back; I have family down here -- you ache for it,” he said. “People have been extremely supportive.”

At PHS, Spitler learned to recruit eighth-grade band members, which will be one of his tactics for building the CHS band program. Spitler said when eighth-graders are exposed to the large number of activities high school provides, they can get “spread too thin.” He wants to encourage students to pick one or two programs they can give their all to, instead of choosing to participate in a lot of programs and contribute little.

“You kind of court the eighth-graders; I have to make myself known … so they will want to play for me,” he said.

KCSD support and that of community members is critical, Spitler said. “Recruit, recruit, recruit; develop, develop, develop,” are his main goals to creating a strong band program and helping students achieve their own goals, which could include participating as individuals in All-Region and All-State Band and Solo and Ensemble.

“(CHS) has a great group of kids who have (the) potential to be really good and it’s my job to expound on that potential,” he said. “I’m setting a standard of excellence and helping them to reach my goals; I’m their facilitator of musical knowledge.”

William “Rusty” Major has mentored the brass section of the CHS band and has played with them at every game this year. Playing an instrument in the band is something that will stay with students for the rest of their lives, he said. Major, a CHS class of 1969 graduate who played for the school’s band, currently plays in the Camden Community Concert Band and has worked to gather CHS band alumni together to play the alma mater and CHS fight song with current CHS band members tonight at the CHS’s game against Columbia’s Dreher High School. Former USC announcer Pat Wiley will be at the game to announce all of the registered alumni. The alumni will then meet at Sam Kendall’s after the game to celebrate the CHS band program.

Major said the CHS band was “invincible” at one time and produced excellent musicians. He is keen on rebuilding CHS’ band program, not to where it used to be, but to Spitler’s standards, he said.

“He has a lovely family. I’ve observed him closely; he knows what he is doing. He’s very talented and with time we’ll have a band,” Major said. “It’s a process, it will come naturally.”

Spitler will direct Major, CHS’ band alumni and CHS high school band students at 7 p.m. today at Zemp Stadium. The band will also play at the American Legion Veteran’s Day Celebration on Nov. 9 and hold its annual Christmas concert on Dec. 13.


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