As Life Waxahachie band students tuned their instruments on the first day of school, the sounds were quite literally music to the ears of Anthony Gaddy.

The first day of school also happened to be Gaddy's first as the band director at Life Waxahachie.

It was a loud Monday afternoon in the band hall as senior Jaywen Stanford took charge of her peers as the head drum major. This marks her fourth year in the band program, which she recalled consisted of about 20 band members her freshman year.

The Life High School Waxahachie band was established in the 2013-14 school year with four ninth-grade students. Stanford has experienced the program evolve and grow to the now 75 students.

She also noted the program has seen a different director all four years of her high school career. Since the new Life campus opened in Waxahachie in 2015, many of the performing arts programs have grown and evolved just like the teachers. In the early years, Dr. Skipp Redd served as both the choir and band directors but had to step down in the role after he sustained a serious neck injury at the Urban Air.

"It's just different people and different personalities that you have to get used to, and yet this band has gotten a lot stronger," Stanford shared. "I think if Mr. Gaddy stays, then we will be a really strong band."

Stanford shared that she likes how funny Gaddy is and the time he takes to relate to the students. She also admired that Gaddy did not want to change everything about the band.

Stanford has played the quad for three years with the drumline and wanted to take on more responsibility with the band. She now serves as the head drum major, which is the assistant to Gaddy and also helps directs the band.

"I like to be a leader and I can see myself having a big part in the band in helping it grow and keeping it disciplined," Stanford said. She added that she hopes to strengthen the bond, achieve success and entice more people to join the band.

On one last note, Stanford wanted to tell the community, "We are here and ready to play so please come out and see us. We are small, but we are going to get there.

Another Mustang that wanted to take on a leadership role was Cristal Rodriguez, a junior from Lancaster.

This was the year for Cristal Rodriguez to set out from behind the music stand and assist with the order of the band as the assistant drum major. Rodriguez has played the clarinet for the past six years and wanted to challenge herself and better the band.

"I've impressed myself in taking on this leadership position," Rodriguez said. "It's a brand new and very exciting experience for me."

Her goal is to expand the culture of the band and enhance the family-like bond that already exists.

Another student that wants to improve the bond between band members is Thomas Hanes, a junior from Cedar Hill. Hanes has practiced music since the sixth grade. He picked up the saxophone after his grandfather's influence who played in night clubs with the band, "The Versatiles."

"That was a really important moment for me," Hanes said. "I try to live up to him and be as good as he was."

The talent did not come naturally but was self-motivated to become more of an artist. Last year, Hanes earned the responsibility of the first chair and hopes to maintain that success in his junior year.

"Music makes people feel a certain way and for me, me playing my own music makes me happy, so that's motivation for me," he added.

Hanes also wants to get personal with his peers and be able to understand everyone on a personal level to relate to everyone.

A NEW DIRECTOR

Gaddy started his musical career in high school at W. Charles Akins High School in Austin with two state competitions.

He attended Schreiner University in Kerrville where he obtained his music education degree in 2014. Gaddy's love for music started in high school and was inspired then to become a band director, and his passion developed even more in college. His primary instrument is the French horn.

He went to Omaha, Texas and taught at Pewitt Junior High and High School. He then served as the band director for the Blooming Grove ISD — grades sixth through 12th — for the past four years.

"We had success with our first all-state there, won sweepstakes and built the program up," Gaddy said.

Gaddy resides in Ennis with his wife, Logan, who is the science secondary coach for Ennis ISD and their 8-month-old son, Ezra. The commute made it more reasonable to teach locally at Life.

With a young band in his possession, Gaddy is focused on establishing set expectations and on also growing the band to 100 students in the next three to five years.

The goals communicated with the students are more bonding, more dedication, make sure marching is uniform, make sure all students can read music and be a competitor in contest.

"The ultimate thing is to build the program and have sustained the high level of success," Gaddy said. "I want the kids to see that success and different diversity all come together as a band family and ultimately succeed for a higher purpose."

When Gaddy isn't in the classroom, he and his wife coach shotgun shooting and has a team called the Ennis Clay Target Team the consists of junior high and high schools. Gaddy and his wife both shot shotguns competitively in college and have coached for the past four years.