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Band leader earns national award

By Greg Gelpi

A musical passion is earning one teacher national acclaim and grabbing international attention for his students.

A 20-year veteran of music education, Mundy's Mill High School teacher Vincent Rosse was selected as one of five high school band directors nationwide to receive the John Phillip Sousa Legion of Honor Award.

"I feel like it's my first year," he said.

Guiding their music and teaching them about life, Rosse said he is a father to his students.

"They all call me daddy Rosse around here or pops," he said.

Directing a class of band students Tuesday, Rosse seized the opportunity to fine tune his students' playing, while dropping words of wisdom at the same time.

"A successful member of the team sacrifices for the good of all the members," Rosse said to his class. "You'll be tested on what I said."

The students, accustomed to his style, echoed his words verbatim.

"He kind of gives you advice on what to do after high school," sophomore tuba and trombone player Maxx Morrell said. "He talks to us about how to get through life."

Sophomore clarinet player Teixeira Whiteside said Rosse goes beyond what other teachers do.

"He teaches us a lot of things others wouldn't teach," Whiteside said, adding that he teaches his students how to compose their own music.

"An old administrator of mine told me if you plow in the field long enough, someone will appreciate your garden," Rosse said.

David Gregory, his high school band director and former Clayton County school administrator; Mundy's Mill Principal Anthony Smith and former Mundy's Mill Principal Jeff Hunt appreciated his "garden" and nominated Rosse for the award.

Quickly, Rosse noted that his success and the success of his band comes from a team effort.

"I want people to know this isn't about Vincent," he said.

Music has been an integral part of his life. His mother has been a church pianist for about 50 years, and his father is the director of a Boy Scout band, Rosse said. Rosse, not only teaches band, he plays as well.

Driving to Phenix City, Ala., as "often as possible," he is a deacon and the music minister of The Franchise Missionary Baptist Church. He is also a percussionist with the Tara Winds Community Band. Rosse also squeezes in time for guest conducting, lecturing and private lessons.

And his abilities as a teacher are paying off for his students.

The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta asked the band to be one of only two bands to perform Saturday during "Feel the Beat! A Celebration of Rhythm."

Select members of Mundy's Mill's band will perform in the Fernbank's Great Hall during a day of music to celebrate the film "Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey." The film celebrates diversity through the universality of music and includes performers from the off-Broadway show STOMP.

"It's going to be an experience," Morrell said. "We haven't done anything that big yet."

Rosse's students are also competing nationally and internationally. In April the band will compete in Orlando, Fla., and some band members will compete later in Europe.

"Working with him is a truly awesome experience," Assistant Band Director Renee Jenkins said. "He has a passion, so as a result that passion trickles down to the students."

She said that something "incredible" happens everyday in the band room under his direction.

"You're looking at the cream of the crop," Rosse said of his band members. "That's why we come to work everyday. You're not going to find any better in the county in the state in the Southeast."