Reno, NV- The Dale County Band was presented a prestigious national honor during a ceremony held Wednesday in Reno, Nevada. The Heart of the Arts Award was presented for the band’s willingness to help a rival school.
However, the story goes far beyond that.
During the 2015 AHSAA football playoffs, the band and its director Miller distinguished themselves as they selflessly took it upon itself to support a county rival neighboring school, Skipperville’s G.W. Long High School. Long High School does not have a band.
The Dale County Marching Warriors Band raised its own funds and traveled more than 250 miles to its rival’s quarterfinal football game at Flomaton, which Long won, 35-21. Under Miller’s direction, the Dale County band inspired the Rebels’ fans with their music and also played at halftime.
The following week, Dale County’s band traveled to Elba for Long High School’s semifinal game. Although Long fell to eventual Class 2A champion Elba, 24-7, Dale County played Long’s fight song following the loss. The Long football players, students and parents joined together to thank the Dale County Marching Band members.
While Dale County’s selfless acts of kindness were in and of themselves impressive, the story goes beyond that.
During the past eight years, Dale County High School and G.W. Long High School have endured an enormous number of tragic losses.
Among them, Dale County Head Football Coach Todd Horne was killed in a car accident on U.S. Highway 231 a month before the 2008 football season was to begin. Todd Horne was the older brother of current G.W. Long Head Football Coach Scott Horne.
In January 2013, longtime Dale County Public Schools bus driver Charles Poland gave up his life to protect a busload of children when a mentally disturbed war veteran attempted to take them hostage.
In January 2015, the school’s then-new band director, Sean Miller, was killed in a car accident less than a mile from the school on the same U.S. Highway 231 where Todd Horne was killed.
Then, in June 2015, G.W. Long Assistant Coach and former Auburn University/Daleville High School football star James Kiger was killed when his truck overturned just a few miles from where Todd Horne was killed.
Miller’s wife Sherri – who would often help Sean with the band – was selected in February 2015 to take over the position of band director. Sherri and Sean had one child at the time and were expecting their second child in July. Her band students immediately showered her with love and continue to do so today.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my Dale County High School family and the surrounding community,” Miller said. “They really embraced me and helped me find a way to keep going.”
This is a huge honor, not only for me, but for all of Dale County High School, the Dale County Community and the Dale County school system,” said principal Matt Humphrey.
“National High School Heart of the Arts Award” is given by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The presentation was made at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino in Reno.
(Much of this article was republished from NFSHSA and the article’s author, John Gillis.)