Today marks the end of an era for a lot of people at Talladega College.
Ten years after he began the task of building Talladega College’s Great Tornado Band, director Miguel Bonds is moving on. Although he confirms that he has taken a position somewhere in Georgia, he said that he is not quite ready to name the new school.
“I can say I look forward to working with a football program, and that I will be working to rebrand and rebuild another marching band from scratch,” he said.
He added, “I just keep thinking, 'Wow.' I just can’t believe this. But we are in the middle of a transition right now, and it’s time for me to move on.”
Troy Brown is the Great Tornadoes head drum major.
“Mr. Bonds brought the band program here in the first place,” Brown said. “He recruited more members, and the school’s enrollment went up. Working with him, I learned a lot about leadership, a lot about patience, about how to follow and about how to stay on top as a man. I know this is a big step for him, and it’s probably bittersweet. I know it is for us. This band is his baby, he built it from the bottom up. We’re all happy for him, but we’ll miss him.”
Drum Major Tavy Knowlton agreed.
“He taught me to be a leader,” he said. “He not only taught me to organize my time, but he also brought a lot of culture here to Talladega College.”
A native of New Orleans, he started out as a band member himself, playing the euphonium. He went on to become part of the “Human Jukebox” at Southern University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. He earned a master’s at Troy University and doctorate from Liberty University in Virginia. He taught music and led the band at Sarah T. Reed High School, then served as co-director of the Stillman Marching Band in Tuscaloosa.
“The Talladega College Band was established as a result of the vision of the college’s president, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, and supported by the college’s board of trustees,” Bonds said. “In that year (2012), Dr. Hawkins and the board hired me to be director of bands. In the first year of existence, the band reached 150 members.
"Since 2012, the band has grown to more than 250 members. I am the only person to have served as director of bands thus far.”
And he’s done a lot of other things, too, including service at various times with the director of admissions, housing and financial aid.
“One semester, there was a shortcoming in the facilities department,” he said. “I worked with Dr. Hawkins, and he thought I had the leadership skills needed, and there was no one else in place to do it. The same thing happened in the transportation department.”
He also taught 95 percent of the college’s music classes as well as classes in the humanities and college orientation. His students also have high graduation rates, which raises the overall graduation rate for the school.
During his tenure, the band participated in the Honda, Queen City and Cracker Barrel battles of the bands, Mardi Gras and the Shriner’s Grand Parade in New Orleans, halftime performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL games and, perhaps most controversially, at the 2016 Presidential Inauguration Parade.
“It’s not that often that you can give people the opportunity to travel and to watch the peaceful transition of power,” he said. “It also helped us raise a lot of money in a short period of time.”
Which comes back to his other great accomplishments with the band, particularly fundraising and recruiting.
“I had plenty of experience with that beforehand,” he said. “You have to establish relationships with principals, other band directors, counselors. There’s a lot of networking involved.”
Bonds said there is an associate band director in place, but said he could not comment on who would be taking over for him after he leaves.