Writer / Heather Chastain
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
The man responsible for creating one of the premier band programs in the Midwest is leading Avon’s Marching Black and Gold for one last season.
Jay Webb plans to retire at the end of the 2017-2018 school year after 25 years as Director of Bands.
“I’ve been in high school since the ‘70s,” Webb laughed. “It’s hard. It’s a hard job. We just do so much more now than we ever did before.”In addition to the marching band, the program also consists of drumline, three color guards and three concert winds, all under Webb’s direction.
Webb came to Avon in 1993.
“We had 85 kids in band that year,” he says. “Last year, we marched around 240. I told them [the students] that first year, ‘one day you’ll see! We’re going to be great!’ No one believed me.”
His vision for the Avon Marching Black and Gold began long before he ever knew where Avon was located. As a young boy in 6th grade, he began taking band classes in his hometown in Florida and then got into the drumline and drum corps. In 7th grade, he told his mom, “I want to be a band director and have the best band in the country,” said the Butler graduate.
After teaching at Center Grove High School and bringing the drumline to their band program, Webb says he started to see how he wanted to model his own band program.“After teaching there, I just had this vision, and I knew I wanted to produce the best program I was capable of producing,” Webb says.
Avon’s band program now has 40 state championships and 10 national championships. Webb is quick to add his goals for the band were not simply about winning.
“It’s about going against the best and seeing how you stack up,” he says. “It’s about the process of being excellent. Work ethic, discipline, being flexible, being able to think on your feet, learning how to take criticism, those are the things I value most,” he says.
A man who always strived for perfection, took a disappointing loss and turned it into a teachable moment.
“1996 was the first year the marching band didn’t make state finals,” Webb says. “It was also the first year we competed in BOA [Bands of America]. We were on a waiting list to get in. They still weren’t familiar with our program. But we needed to compete against the best. We finished in the 80s that year.”
Looking back over his career, Webb says he always gave his heart and wanted to create an experience that was positively life changing. One former student said she considers Webb one of the most influential people in her life.
“Through the band program I was able to feel a part of something so much bigger than I could have ever experienced, says Jaclyn Moore. “I found a group of friends, community, the discipline of hard work and success. “He taught me so much more than music. He taught great work ethic, compassion for others and how to be part
of a group that has so many personalities and backgrounds.”
As the program has grown, Webb said he’s starting to see what he calls “legacy kids” now. “It seems like families stick with us,” he says. “We get siblings, cousins and now we get kids of previous students coming back to be part of the band.” Webb said he’s been very blessed to be at Avon.
“It gave me the freedom to allow me to grow into what I could be and what the band can be,” Webb says.
Though, he said he couldn’t have produced a program like Avon’s without help. Webb credits Bob Row, the former band director (1973-1990), for paving the way for the band program and for hiring him, Barbara Doll, who began as a volunteer, Cathy Clemmensen, directors Matt Harloff and Robert Burns and the band boosters.
His colleagues said his impact has been widespread.
“Working with Jay Webb for the past 10 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my 23-year career,” says Department Chairman Dean Westman. “His commitment to excellence, his endless dedication, and his care for all our students is truly inspiring. Jay is an icon in the world of music education and means so much to so many here at home. I learn something every day I spend teaching with him and am proud to call him a colleague and friend.”
As for the future, Webb plans to stick around town and stay involved with the band, but slow down a little bit.