RALEIGH – Alyssa Montgomery is tasked with carrying on the winning tradition of Leesville Road High School’s band program.
It’s a tall order, considering Leesville’s band is nationally recognized and practices in a room lined with trophies from around the country.
But Montgomery has an edge up: She’s a 2008 graduate of the northwest Raleigh school and learned from the school’s founding band director, David Albert.
Weaving her own experiences into the instruction of several ensembles and classes, Montgomery has plans to continue the Leesville band tradition of high-quality music and tight-knit relationships.
“It’s a family in there,” she said. “We have a lot of fun, and we get a lot of work done.”
Montgomery attributes her passion and success to Albert, who started the program when Leesville Road High opened in 1993.
“He was an amazing teacher, he made you want to be better,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know how he did that, but I wanted to play better because he inspired me to do that.”
She began in the band as an oboe player, but she learned how to play most of the instruments during her high school career.
Her junior year, Albert appointed her drum major, which was a position usually reserved for seniors.
“She just kind of grabbed a hold of everything the band program was about – the music, the organization, the big community picture that Leesville’s known for,” Albert said.
Montgomery, now 24, attended Appalachian State University. She started out as a math major and performed with the college band for fun.
She decided to switch course when she started tutoring peers in her college calculus class. She also taught private music lessons on the side, and she quickly realized teaching was more fun than crunching numbers.
One day, she returned to her high school alma mater and told Albert that her new professional goal was to direct a band.
Albert, who retired in 2001, said he wasn’t surprised.
“It was just the way history was going to work out,” he said. “I knew that if there was someone to do what I think needs to be done at Leesville, it was Alyssa.”
Montgomery began teaching in Wake County schools three years ago, first at Wendell Middle School. She has been at Leesville Road High for the past two years.
As much as Montgomery has given to the band program, she said the program also has given back to her.
“It teaches so many life lessons,” she said.
Albert imparted on his students that if they weren’t early, they were late.
The band members, who dress in military-style uniforms, learned how to clean and care for those uniforms while instilling a deep respect for military personnel, Montgomery said.
All of those lessons will continue.
“I see no need to fix something that’s not broken,” Montgomery said.
And while Montgomery relies on her high school memories to guide her instruction, Albert can rest easy knowing the program he built from the ground up is in good hands.
“There’s no question that she’s one of our finest students,” he said. “I never had a daughter, but if I could pick a daughter, she would be number one on my list.”