Special photo / Richard Bell
Stockbridge resident Richard Bell said his passion for music began as a boy in Thomaston, Ga., during the 1970s. He said he started learning to play the string bass as a fifth-grader in the school orchestra.
“The orchestra teacher demonstrated all of the instruments and invited us to join,” said Bell. “I liked the idea of being able to express yourself. [And] I was a pretty big kid, so the bass was a good fit for me.”
Bell continues to play the string bass now. He is the string bass instructor at Reinhardt University in (Cherokee County) Waleska, Ga. He also conducts the Reinhardt University Symphony.
The orchestra conductor was recently named one of three new conductors for the Kennesaw, Ga.-based Georgia Youth Symphony. He will conduct some 80 student-musicians in the Camerata Orchestra, one of the symphony’s four orchestra groups.
“We had our first rehearsal last Sunday,” said Bell. “It was an exciting rehearsal.”
Bell has spent most of his professional life working with young students.
“Music improves your memory and reasoning,” he said. “It’s such a wonderful way to express yourself. It gives a broader view of our history and culture than just studying pure academics all day long.”
Bell retired in 2010 from the Henry County School System, following 29 years of service in education. He spent 22 of those years with Clayton County Public Schools, which included 12 years at Lovejoy High School in Hampton. He said the remaining seven were spent in Henry, instructing orchestra classes at Union Grove middle and high schools in McDonough.
“It’s a wonderful career,” he said. “I can honestly say it’s been a joy to go to work almost every day.”
Bell acknowledged that, as a music instructor and conductor at Reinhardt, his second career is not much different from his first.
“I thought it was important to keep doing music education,” he said. “[Also,] there is a higher academic standard and a different focus.”
Bell holds bachelors and masters degrees from Florida State University and a doctorate from the University of Georgia. He has complemented his career as an educator with leadership roles in the field.
He is a past president of the Georgia Music Educators Association, from 2007-09. He is one of the long-time conductors for the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra. Also, for the past four years Bell has been the music minister at the First Baptist Church of Morrow, where he has been a member for 10 years.
Bell lives in Henry County with his wife, Angie, of 30 years. They have two sons, Will, a senior at Georgia Southern University, and Cooper, a sophomore at the Georgia Institute of Technology.