Bulldogs march toward success

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

The Mighty Marching Bulldogs of King’s Fork High School will say goodbye to about two dozen of their own when the seniors graduate today.

They will leave behind a slew of trophies that have practically filled the shelves of the band room, numbering at about 90 trophies in the last five years, according to Bernard Bradley, who will reach his sixth year as the band director this August.

At least 50 of those trophies are first place in various categories and 11 are for being selected as grand champion at events.

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“They have been one of the strongest classes to come out of this band program, and they’re definitely going to be a hard act to follow for future classes,” Bradley said in his band room office dubbed “Bradley Boulevard.”

Their work in the marching band has paid off in tuition dollars. Bradley said 20 of the graduates have earned some form of band scholarship to help pay for their studies at seven different colleges and universities.

Crystal Tysinger, 17, received a full ride to Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. The percussionist plans to major in mass communication and pursue a career in journalism. She learned many things as a Bulldog, especially how to take pride in what you love to do and how to keep practicing it and never give up.

“If you keep moving forward, then it will take you further than you ever dreamed,” Tysinger said.

Practice hasn’t been easy for the 100 or so students involved in band. The musical discipline for consistent, excellent performance requires each student to respect leadership and each other as much as they respect their instruments.

“You’re going to sweat — some days you might cry — but ultimately you have a connection with your band family,” Bradley said. “You go out there and have consistently quality performances, because the ultimate goal is to make the music leave a lasting impression on the audience,” Bradley said.

Kristofer Faulk, 18, started band in the sixth grade at King’s Fork Middle School. He reminisced about his rookie year and how he gained the trust of his bandmates with the guidance of older students. He and his alto saxophone will go to Norfolk State in the fall to study civil engineering.

There were ups and downs, he said, but he came back every year because of the family he found.

“My mama always told me that I was going to find my people,” Faulk said. “Well, I found them here.”

Many families look for scholarships and other financial aid in high school sports, but according to Bradley, his Bulldogs have shown that being in band can help pay for college.

“On the outside, everybody thinks it’s kind of hard,” said Dejuan Green, 18, who plays alto saxophone and will study cyber security at Norfolk State this fall. “We’re disciplined, but they’re overthinking it. If you put the time and your mind into it, you can be really great at this. You can get a scholarship and go to college without it coming out of your pocket.”

Sitting in “Bradley Boulevard,” the band director said he was proud of his students for their success, both in competition and the classroom. But there’s more to it than just the numbers.

“The students have grown a lot since they’ve first stepped through this door,” Bradley said. “A lot of them came from different musical backgrounds and levels, but ultimately the love they have for each other and for what they do pushed them to be a great band.

“I’m proud of their accomplishments, but I’m prouder of the people they’ve become.”

Alexus Wilson, 17, proudly waved her flag in the band’s auxiliary unit with a discipline she had been cultivating before she even joined. She will attend Virginia Union University in Richmond to major in history, but she will always remember what it means to be a Mighty Marching Bulldog.

“It means that you love the people that you’re around,” Wilson said. “You love your classmates, your teachers and your friends, and you stand your ground like a Bulldog will do.”