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The Madison Record
The photograph shows Bob Jones and James Clemens bands sharing the field during “March on Madison” in 2015. The two band programs with directors Leigh Thomas and Keith Anderson were guests on the premiere of “Sittin’ With the Supe” with Madison City School Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols. CONTRIBUTED

Nichols premieres ‘Sittin’ With the Supe’ podcast with Anderson, Thomas

MADISON – Technology has opened a communication tool for Dr. Ed Nichols, Superintendent of Madison City Schools. In reaching his virtual audience, Nichols will elaborate on the diverse initiatives in district classrooms and explain the successes of teachers and students.

Nichols has created a podcast, which is a digital file for audio (no video) that the author posts online for people to access on their computers and mobile devices. The author usually creates a podcast as a series of installments.

Nichols’ podcast, “Sittin’ With the Supe,” gives him a voice to elaborate on the scenarios that support the district’s adopted theme this year, “Glad To Be Here.”

“If someone were to ask me for examples that inspired that theme, a simple answer won’t do. There are too many positive aspects about MCS to boil down into a short response,” Nichol said.

Listening to “Sittin’ With the Supe” will allow “students, parents and all our stakeholders to gain greater insight into our district,” he said. The podcast is available with Apple Podcast, Spotify or directly from media.rss.com/sittinwiththesupe/feed.xml.

Guests for Nichols’ first podcast were band directors for Madison’s high schools: Leigh Thomas at Bob Jones and Keith Anderson at James Clemens. Nichols wanted to “discuss the upcoming band season, all the work that goes into creating their shows, and offer a sneak peek into their fall performances. I can’t wait to share other neat stories and insights as the year unfolds.”

For his first question, Nichols asked the band directors about their background. Thomas said she grew up in a small town north of Tuscaloosa in Marion County called Winfield.

“More students are in graduating classes at Bob Jones than were in my entire school,” Thomas said. At the University of Alabama, Thomas felt like “a little fish in a big pond.”

At Alabama, Thomas was drum major for three years. “I was under care of passionate educators there,” she said. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UA.

In 2012, Thomas started her job search. Her UA directors contacted then principal Robby Parker about a position.

“When Keith took the job at James Clemens, I was able to slip into the slot at Bob Jones. I had a great interview with longtime director Doyle Thornton; I had not taught before, and he had taught for 25 years,” Thomas said.

Her time at Bob Jones has been “my one and only job. I transitioned to head band director when Mr. Thornton retired.”

Bob Jones halftime show, “Game on,” pays homage to a frequent sign-off from Bob Jones Principal Sylvia Lambert. Bob Jones has approximately 180 students marching on the field for the halftime program. The Patriots’ competition show, “The Flame,” is based loosely on the Disney movie, “Hocus Pocus.”

“Royals,” halftime show for James Clemens, opens with the chart-topping single, “Royal” by Lorde and continues with pop charts. Their competition show examines “Time,” and man’s attempts to control it. James Clemens Band will have 195 marching members for their halftime show.

Anderson hails from Muscle Shoals. At the University of North Alabama, he performed with UNA Percussion Section and was drum major for three years.

“I graduated in 2001 and was contacted by someone from Bob Jones. I got the job as assistant director with Doyle Thornton and was there 11 years. When the James Clemens position opened, I applied,” Anderson said.

In founding a new band at James Clemens, Anderson had to be flexible. Practice fields were not ready, so Anderson held band camp on Liberty Middle School’s baseball field. “We had 87 students in band – two seniors, a handful of juniors; 75 percent of the band had never marched before,” Anderson said.

‘When the halftime show starts, you have no control at that point,” Thomas said. “When the whistle blows, (the show) is totally student-run. You wipe your hands, and they do what you’ve taught them to do, or what they’ve taught each other.”

During the podcast, the three educators realized that they all had served as drum major for their college band – Thomas at Alabama, Anderson at UNA and Nichols at the University of Tennessee. “We had that corner of the market taken, didn’t we?” Nichols said.


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