Our network

Lassiter band director retires after creating world-renowned program | Arts & Culture

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Lassiter band director retires after creating world-renowned program
Lassiter band director retires after creating world-renowned program

MARIETTA, Ga. -- More than 30 years ago, when Alfred Watkins took a position at Lassiter High School, he replaced someone who declared the school community would never support a music program.

Boy, was he wrong.

Watkins retires this month as a true icon.

The numbers tell the story: four performances in the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade; three appearances in the esteemed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; two Bands of America National Grand Championships: and one big building at the school with his name on it.

"His reputation is outside of it here. It's bigger than Cobb County. It's bigger than Georgia. It's bigger than the Southeast," said Stephen Hamlin, parent of four former and current band students and former president of the Lassiter High School Band Boosters. "They're (the Lassiter Band) renowned everywhere they go."

"Alfred has been the foundation of the band program at Lassiter," said Ann Rives, a Lassiter High counselor whose daughter served as drum major. "They've gotten every band award possible and the kids have gotten every award possible,"

"He is phenomenal," Hamlin said. "Alfred provides a life-lesson, not just a music lesson, for the parents, the children, for everything."

"No mentor in my life that's has as much of an impact than he has," said former student Andrew McMillan. "What he taught me was more than how to be in a band and how to be a musician. It was how to be a leader."

"It's about being better than you were the day before. It's about pushing yourself to reach your potential and after you've reached you're potential, and after you've reached that potential it's pushing yourself to surpass it," McMillan added.

Watkins looks back on his many blessings with pride.

"Band experiences are kind of like children, you don't compare them. You just kind of enjoy the space that you're in at the time," he said.

He estimates he's taught between 10,000 and 11,000 students and done "high school football games for 440 Friday nights."

As he retires, it's clear he's leaving behind quite a footprint.

"His presence will be felt for many generations to come just because of the groundwork he's laid here," Hamlin said.

Marietta Deals