New Director of Bands Cliff Dawson hopes to continue the success the Pirates had under Jeramiah Bowman.
Cliff Dawson, the new director of bands at Braden River High School, stood before four marching band members in a small room with the metronome playing.
He listened intently as the band members played their respective parts of a quartet that will be part of this year’s marching show, “Renewal.”
When they finished their section, Dawson posed a question.
“What does this song sound like to you?” Dawson said.
Some of the responses included bubbly, flighty and magical.
“To me, it sounds like an ABBA piece,” Dawson said as he pumped his fist in the air, making the band members laugh.
Although Dawson is the new director of bands at Braden River High School, he hasn’t skipped a beat since returning to the high school after serving two years as assistant director of bands at the school and being a music teacher at Samoset Elementary School last year.
“I told parents nothing has changed yet everything has changed, so I will do my best to be the best Jeramiah Bowman impersonator I possibly can be, but at the end of the day, the systems we had in place here had no reason to change,” Dawson said.
Dawson replaces Jeramiah Bowman, who served as the director of bands at Braden River High for five years before accepting a position as the curriculum and instruction specialist for visual and performing arts for the School District of Manatee County.
“I’ll definitely miss the kids and being there with them and watching them grow,” Bowman said. “I wouldn’t trade (my time at Braden River High) for anything. I certainly learned more from them than they probably have learned from me. I matured as an educator and as a leader.”
During Bowman’s five years at Braden River High School, the Marching Band of Pirates won the 3A division of the Florida Marching Band Championship’s state championship three consecutive years (2017-2018-2019).
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished, but it was certainly a group effort between all the students, staff and the parents,” Bowman said. “It takes a whole team and community to be able to achieve something like that. I believe the program is still set up for success. I believe it’s stronger than when I got there. The goal is to always leave it better than you found it.”
Bowman said the concert and jazz bands always received superior ratings at Music Performance Assessments and solo and ensemble participation always was high.
“I think we were able to create some special opportunities for kids to enjoy and experience their love of music,” Bowman said.
Dawson said taking over the band programs at Braden River comes with slight mixed feelings. He’s excited to return to a school he considers home, but he knows he has big shoes to fill and a legacy of success to uphold.
“Braden River has had a track record of excellence, and we have no plan of changing that,” Dawson said. “We’ll keep doing what Braden River does.”
Aston Staton, a rising junior and drum major, expects Dawson to be able to push the band to its limits while also building a positive attitude in the program.
Melanie Ladd, a rising senior and flag captain of the color guard, said having Dawson as the director brings a sense of comfort to the band because they know his personality and understands how he works.
“I think because he has learned a lot from Bowman that he will continue on with his legacy, but he will also implement new styles and new ways,” Ladd said. “He’s serious a lot of the time, which we need, but he also gives us so much comfort when we need it. When we are struggling, he keeps us together.”
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