A Samford University alumnus, Jerell Horton has been the band director at Vestavia Hills High School since 2006. Before assuming the position of director, he served as the assistant band director at Pizitz Middle School and Vestavia Hills High School. In his time at VHHS, he has been named one of “School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s” 2014 Top Directors Who Make a Difference. In 2022, he assisted in teaching the performers for the Bands of America Honor Band in the annual Rose Parade. Here, Jerell offers his congratulations to the VHHS students who made the 2023 Alabama All State Bands. 

Which students were accepted into the All State program, and what instruments do they play?

All State Band: Andy Sheng, Alto Sax; Ashlyn Berry, Clarinet; Samuel Chen, Alto Sax; Wardah Naim, Flute; Claus Na, French Horn; Connor Lovette, Euphonium; and Drake Miller, Tuba. All State Jazz: Ashlyn Berry, Tenor Sax; and Andy Sheng, Alto Sax. All State Orchestra: Drake Miller, Tuba; and Connor Lovette, Trombone. 

 Please describe what an Honor it is to be selected for this program.

The Alabama All State band highlights the best musicians in the state of Alabama.  These students audition within eight districts in the state to win positions in the All State Bands. There are three high school All State bands: red, white and blue. The red band is the highest. We are so very proud of our students for accomplishing this honor! 

Tell our readers about the work ethic and dedication of Vestavia Hills band students. 

The Vestavia Hills High School band students are very committed from 6:50 a.m. marching band rehearsals, to participating in honor bands, local youth orchestras and church ensembles.  We are always blown away by their commitment to excellence. They go above and beyond what is necessary to enhance their own experience.  

Can you speak any on the importance of teaching arts education, specifically music, in our schools?

I teach the concept of lego leadership in our band program. In a nutshell, I believe that every person possesses a unique set of skills; that is, once connected with others we, (society as a whole), all improve. We are lego pieces. In the same respect the school environment is enhanced by allowing students to use their brains in different ways when they participate in fine arts classes. We give students the opportunity to explore other ways to create and express themselves.   

What is your favorite part of being a band instructor?

Not only do I get to work with my best friend, Associate Director Heather Palmer, but I also get to impact my small part of the world by approaching my job with diligence, passion and joy. Mrs. Palmer and I understand that not all of our students will be professional musicians, but they will be professional people. So, we try our best to frame the experiences of our classroom to help our students later in life no matter what they do. My favorite part of being a band director is seeing how ephemeral moments of music making impact students for life.