Alex Shive wants his seniors to know exactly how special they are to him.
To celebrate the Class of 2020 during their pandemic-shortened final year of high school, the director of bands at Cartersville High School and his fiancée, Courtney Curtis, spent an entire Saturday delivering gifts to the homes of the 17 seniors who are graduating from the Purple Hurricanes band program.
“This group of seniors were very special to me,” Shive said. “This is my second year at Cartersville High School and was the year that the upperclassmen and I began to implement the changes we wanted to see in their program after I got my bearings last year. They are extremely resilient and endlessly selfless. Every time we discussed what to do or how to do it when it came to the growth of their program, they jumped in with the mantra of leaving behind something better for the next class. Their achievements will continue to support their peers as the program moves forward.”
The director said he wanted his seniors to “receive something special as they close this chapter of their life.”
“This time is supposed to be full of celebrations, grad parties and spending time with friends,” he said. “My first job is to always serve students in any way I can. This was something we could do to help them celebrate their achievements.”
On May 2, Shive and Curtis “personally delivered” to the seniors a shako — a marching band hat — a service bar to add to their letterman jackets, a yard sign celebrating their graduation and a “personal letter for each student from me sharing our memories we made together,” he said.
“We wanted these gifts to come from us so they knew how special they are to us,” he said. “I wanted them to know how special they are to my family and for them to have mementoes from their high school career. They are missing out on so much pomp and circumstance that comes with graduating high school, and we wanted to support them in every way that we could.”
Shive said they chose May 2 as the delivery date because “all senior work for digital learning was due on the 1st so that signified the end of their high school career.”
“We wanted them to get something special after all their hard work and for all they’ve done for their school,” he said.
The director said his band students mean as much to his fiancée as they do to him.
“I am currently the only band director employed by Cartersville High School,” he said. “With that comes long hours but also amazing moments to form lifelong connections with these students for my whole family. She cares for these students just as much as I do.
“When we knew that this group of seniors would have an unconventional close to their senior year, we both began brainstorming ways we could show them just how special they are to both of us.”
Flute soloist/section leader/color guard member Natalie Hannah was excited about the gifts she received from her director, especially the shako.
“I appreciate the time he took and the consideration he had for the graduating band members,” she said. “The shako prompted countless memories for me. I am extremely grateful to be able to hold those memories in my hands.”
Hannah, 18, said she wasn’t at home when Shive and Curtis made their special delivery, but her parents were.
“He was kind in sharing his experience teaching me, and he wished my family and me well for the future,” she said.
Percussion section leader Thomas Smith said he “really appreciated” the gifts as well as the effort Shive made to recognize the band seniors.
“I felt super-grateful that he went out of his way to do all this,” the 18-year-old said, noting his director placed the sign in his yard and left the gifts on the front porch. “It's been a tough spring, with everything getting cancelled, and I was really grateful that he went out of his way to make us seniors feel special.”
A four-year member of the high school band as well as a member of the eighth-grade marching band, Hannah said she is “profoundly disappointed that I was unable to learn under the direction of Mr. Shive during my last few months of senior year.”
“This year has been chaotic for me,” she said. “Even during the fall semester, I was unable to attend school due to medical reasons, and I had already missed performing in two concerts during that time. When I returned home, I was only in school for a month and a half before schools shut down. We had prepared for our LGPE — large group performance evaluation – concert and had another final concert left for the end of the year.”
But she still managed to keep improving her musical skills to help prepare her for her post-secondary plans — studying music education at Reinhardt University.
“Even with everything seemingly standing in the way of our band class this year, I have continued to progress in my learning for the next chapter in my life,” she said. “There will always be another opportunity to revisit Mr. Shive and the program.”
Smith, also a four-year member of the band, said spring semester has been “really tough” for the musicians, especially the seniors.
“I had several things I was looking forward to — LGPE, percussion ensemble concert, playing drums in the high school's musical, spring concert, etc. — and it just stinks that I wasn't able to participate in any of that for the last time,” he said.
Hannah said her audition for Reinhardt’s music program in April was the accomplishment she was most proud of during her senior year.
“Auditioning for college – via computer and without piano accompaniment — was nerve-racking, yet I made it through,” she said. “The effort that went into the performed pieces played a large part in forming my future. I took the first significant step into my college journey and the incredible person I am striving to become.”
Smith, who plans to attend Georgia Highlands College for a year then transfer to Kennesaw State University, said he’s most proud of last fall’s marching band show.
“It was a really difficult show this year, and Mr. Shive really pushed us to be better and make the show sound really nice,” he said. “We learned the show surprisingly quickly and got it really polished towards the end of the season.”
The percussionist said he’s “really enjoyed” participating in the band program, “especially these past two years.”
“I've really appreciated Mr. Shive coming in and making us all feel like family,” he said. “He was very patient with us, while at the same time pushing us to reach our full potential. I was actually going to quit band after my sophomore year because I was just bored of it, but Mr. Shive came in and really made it fun and enjoyable.”
Though she won’t be part of it, Hannah is looking forward to the band’s future under Shive’s leadership.
“Mr. Shive has done and continues to do an incredible job teaching the band program,” she said. “He has held us accountable for our success, and we are only seeing the beginning of his and the band program's hard work and determination.”
While they may not be playing or performing any more this year, Shive isn’t done recognizing his seniors.
“We will be using our social media platforms to celebrate each student’s achievements individually and hope to have a senior dinner when we are all allowed to meet again,” he said.
And their time together was “short,” but Shive said he is “immensely proud of this graduating class.”
“I wish we had more time together, but I know I will always cherish the time we did have,” he said. “They are a part of my family forever, and we are always here to support them in any way we can.”