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Choctaw’s Brad Parks prepares for his final school year as Band Director

When Brad Parks first arrived at Choctawhatchee High School in Summer of 2013, he was the Associate Director working under Jay McArthur. He was fresh out of college when then-Principal […]

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When Brad Parks first arrived at Choctawhatchee High School in Summer of 2013, he was the Associate Director working under Jay McArthur. He was fresh out of college when then-Principal Cindy Gates gave him his first job teaching music.

Parks was tasked with, well, assisting in every way possible that would help push the band ahead. But he was also responsible for the concert band, along with developing younger students by helping them gain and learn the skills they needed to be successful in the band.

  • He was responsible for the jazz band, in addition to helping with the marching band, doing a lot of the fundamental marching techniques, some choreography and just assisting McArthur with everything else.

In the Spring of 2019, McArthur announced his plan to retire and Parks was tapped as Band Director, taking over the role of his mentor.

“Everything led to me having the opportunity to step into the head director role,” said Parks. “So I did that in the summer of 2019.”

Now in his 3rd year as the Director of Bands at Choctaw, while his role has changed, his passion for teaching students has remained steadfast.

“Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of mentors and good people that have helped show me the way and guide me and help correct the things that I haven’t been as good on,” said Parks. “They helped me learn the things that I needed to get better at so I could be the best for Choctaw.”

But as the new year settles in, Parks’ role is about to change again as he prepares for the next stage of his life. After much thought, prayer, and consideration, Parks says this will be his final semester and school year as band director of Choctawhatchee High School.

“I recently became engaged to my best friend of 16 years and we have an opportunity for us to be together in the Atlanta, GA area as we prepare for and enter into marriage,” he said. “I plan to stay active and committed as the director of bands through the month of June in order to help and assist with a transition of a new band director.”

  • Parks added that Assistant Director Stephen Mayo plans to continue as the associate director and will be helping a new director of bands transition into their role with the Style Marchers.

“We have already begun a search for a new director and will look to create as smooth a transition as possible,” said Parks. “While changes like this are a challenge for any community, I know our Style Marcher program will continue to be a premier organization long after my time here because of the incredible team of people who work and care for it every day. I know this community will help carry the mantle on through this transition and support the Style Marchers in its next phase.”

With almost 9 years of memories as a Big Green Indian, Parks says there are a few standout moments that he will never forget.

“Our marching band show that we performed and competed at Milton High School is the first that stands out,” said Parks. “The crowd reaction that we got was absolutely incredible. The kids had a great performance, a great run, and everybody felt a huge, positive energy coming off the field.”

  • “I was able to talk to the kids beforehand and after, and sent a message of how just special they are and how special what they do is,” he added.

Another big moment was the MPA concert in 2020 before everybody went home for COVID.

“We played three great pieces at Fort Walton Beach High School in early March, and that was probably one of the highlights of my career,” he said. “Just seeing what the kids could rise to and perform with such ability and great musicianship. That was just a really special moment.”

And finally, last year in the spring of 2021.

“We performed three incredibly challenging pieces for our spring concert and it was just a knockout performance from the symphonic band,” he said. “Faced with all the adversity of last year’s school year, the kids really rose to the top and performed these pieces and just had a memorable performance. I will never forget that performance. They just did a fantastic job.”

Big moments like these will certainly be something he never forgets, but there are many things associated with his day-to-day role that he will definitely miss.

“The number one thing I will miss the most is teaching these students,” said Parks. “That’s the highlight of my day every day.”

“That is my favorite part of the job,” he added. “Getting to work with these students, whether it’s helping with our percussion students, helping with color guard, helping any of our wind students just take that next step, or even in full rehearsal with our ensembles as well, I will treasure it most. And that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

The road to Atlanta

The final semester is underway for Parks but it will be business as usual as he and the Style Marchers enter concert season. At the same time, the road to Atlanta is around the corner.

“With my engagement to Victoria, she is based in the Atlanta area and her and I put a lot of thought and prayer into what’s next for us as we get married,” he said. “We believe that there’s more for us together and more opportunities for us to support each other in the Atlanta area. So she’s going to be able to continue to pursue her career of acting in Atlanta and I’ll be able to look for band positions in the late spring and throughout the summer.”

As his 9 years comes to a close, there is a laundry list of people to thank.

“I’ve got to thank Cindy Gates for giving me my first job ever out of college and allowing me to start my career here in Okaloosa county,” said Parks. “She was the Principal at Choctaw and I remember that phone call to this day.”

“I want to thank Lee Hale for having the chance to work with him, learn from him and his principalship here at Choctaw, and I have to thank Michelle Heck for all that she’s done to allow me the opportunity to move into the head role here.”

On the music side of things, Jay McArthur and Stephen Mayo are at the top.

“Jay has been a mentor and best friend since 2013,” said Parks. “I can’t thank him enough for what I learned from him over 6 years. And Stephen Mayo, my current associate for the last three years. He’s been an incredible friend and colleague since the day we met.”

There is also the rest of the band directors across the County that have become his band family.

“The mentorship, camaraderie, and more importantly, friendship, that has been shown to me since day one on the job is truly second to none in the country,” said Parks. “From Saturday morning breakfast to late night phone calls to laughs, smiles, and tears, the Okaloosa county band directors have been a part of my life that I’m fortunate to take with me wherever I go in life. The love and care for people, students, and band in this county has deep roots and is the core foundation for all of the success achieved by our programs.”

“I would also like to thank Superintendent Marcus Chambers for his unwavering support of the band programs in Okaloosa County, and of me, personally,” he added. “That’s just something that I would never have dreamed of and just knowing that he supports the band programs and values them means a lot.”

And what would a thank you list be without the students and band families?

“I want to thank all the band families and students,” he said. “Families, past and present, for just allowing me the chance to work here and teach your children.”

The road to Atlanta is around the corner, but for now, he remains focused on another road….

“I look forward to my time remaining here on Racetrack Road and am very much looking forward to the semester ahead,” he ended. “We have great plans for all of our students and performing ensembles and we plan to make the most of Spring 2022.”

Thank you, Brad Parks, for your commitment to excellence and keeping the superior ratings going during your tenure in Okaloosa County.

🙌 Thanks to our sponsors

This local high school band coverage is made possible thanks to Realtor Lisa A. Norton! Support those who support our local news coverage!

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