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New Natchez High band director finds dream job

Natchez High School band director Marcus Washington leads the band in practice inside the Steckler Multipurpose Building at NHS Wednesday.
Natchez High School band director Marcus Washington leads the band in practice inside the Steckler Multipurpose Building at NHS Wednesday.

Marcus Washington didn’t find his dream job in a big city.

The 27-year-old Natchez native found it right here in his hometown when Natchez High School hired him as band director this year.

“Ever since I was in the band, I wanted to be the director,” Washington said. “So I just waited until my chance came.”

Washington majored in music education and attended Southern University at Baton Rouge and Alcorn State University. He was most recently the band director at West Lowndes High School in Columbus.

“They really accepted me as part of the family there, but I wanted to come home,” he said.

Since joining the Natchez High staff, Washington said he and the two other new band directors — Matthew Thornton and Kendra Jenkins — have been focusing mainly on playing style with the upper level students. Jenkins said she has been focusing on teaching all of her students to read music.

Washington said he believes he, Thornton and Jenkins make a great team for Natchez High.

Thornton, a native of Atlanta, moved to Natchez from Nashville, where he taught two years as a band director. He studied music education at Tennessee State University.

Natchez High has been a good change of pace for him, Thornton said.

“I was the only band director with about 50 kids, so it’s less stressful here,” he said.

Jenkins, a Brookhaven native, graduated from Alcorn with a bachelor’s in music education and from Ole Miss with a master’s in music education.

After finishing her master’s in July, Jenkins said Natchez was a natural fit for her.

“I’ve been around the area with me being at Alcorn, and I’m also a part of the African Methodist Episcopal church, and Natchez is in our district, so I’ve been coming around for a long time,” she said. “And it’s close to home for me.”

Washington said she is concentrating on getting her 12- and 13-year-old students to focus so they can maximize their potential.

“At that age, you aren’t thinking about marching,” she said. “You’re thinking about what you’re going to eat for lunch, what you’re going to wear or what you’re going to watch on TV when you get home. But when they do focus, they do great.”

Washington, Thornton and Jenkins said they have all enjoyed working with their students this year.

The directors say they seek to challenge their students without pushing them too hard.

Washington said, though, their work doesn’t end in the band hall.

“We teach them life skills — to be on time, discipline,” he said. “We don’t want to have to stand over you to practice. We want them to practice on their own. We teach them everything from how to dress, because it’s important everyone wear the same thing, to skills for working with others.”

Washington, Thornton and Jenkins all say they look forward to a bright future working together to make Natchez’s band program even better.

“We’re a good team,” Jenkins said. “It’s kind of odd; we all fit together so well like we’ve been working together for a long time.”

Washington said he is happy to be home directing the band in which he grew up.

“This has always been my dream job,” Washington said.