Ending on a High NoteWAHS band director Eddie Shealy takes his final bow before retirement
April 9, 2014
By Brendan McPherson
One month and some change. That’s what it has come down to for J. Edward Shealy, the director of bands at West Ashley High School. Shealy is synonymous with marching bands and the West Ashley area. Now after 33 years of teaching music and directing bands, the Maestro is taking one last bow.
From taking Middleton High School to a nationally televised performance to recently winning state with two separate lines at WAHS, it’s been a long illustrious career for Shealy. He’s been directly involved with decades of musicians in the West Ashley area. Shealy says he’s now frequently teaching students whose parents remember him from their marching days.
Bu it wasn’t always apparent for Shealy that he was going to be a music teacher. He went to Newberry College to study business. But as time passed he realized he loved music and wanted that to be an integral part of his life. Eventually he decided to get into teaching music and believed it was important to school. “ In band, you learn math, science ,reading, discipline, reading, and teamwork,” says Shealy. From there his Career has been based here in West Ashley, except for one year when he taught at Calhoun Falls.
Teaching at the Middleton High School served as a great experience for Shealy, who has nothing but good things to say when speaking about the now defunct high school. The Middleton years include some of his fondest memories as a band director. “First time we did Fiddler On The Roof was favorite band,” says Shealy about the 1995 band. His Middleton High years also included a shining moment, not just for West Ashley but all of Charleston.
His 1998 band marched and performed in the Orange Bowl Parade on national television. Going down to Miami and marching was a special experience for both Shealy and his band. Aside from the fun and sun of just being in Miami, the trip had special significance for that particular band. The kids came together and raised $200,000 dollars and they dedicated the performance to a special band member who was killed on Halloween of that year by a drunk driver. The band took it tough, but came together and dedicated the performance to her. The trip also stands out for Shealy because it was Middleton High’s last year before it merged with St. Andrew’s High School to form WAHS.
At WAHS Shealy kept his passion for music going and didn’t miss a beat, serving as band director, music teacher, and Flagline director among other things. At WAHS, Shealy says his favorite memory is his recent state titles with the Flagline and Drumlines.
With this year’s Flagline, Shealy says the team knew they could be great and set a goal to do so. They stepped outside the box and did a show called “Candy.” The kids learned the entire show in just two days. Not only was this Shealy’s last year, but the team contained multiple seniors. So it was a swan song for many in the group, including their leader.
But for Shealy, it’s not all about the band. He also teaches music. When Teaching, Shealy is a self-professed “disciplinarian” who believes one should “live life so when you’re gone you’ll make a difference.” A lesson that Shealy has lived as well as preached in his 33 years as an educator.
Monday, April 28 will mark Shealy’s final concert. It will feature several different pieces and showcases of sounds. Shealy himself will play with the clarinets. The band will also be premiering a piece that a former student has composed.
There’s a lot for Shealy to process in the next couple of weeks. He says it’s time, even though he admits that some days he wakes up with cold feet about retiring. He knows he’ll miss it, but he also knows it will always be a part of him.