The junior and senior year experiences of most students is that of paring down interests, focusing on less as they prepare to finish what feels like an academic sprint only to find out lifelong learning is really an endurance event.
This wasn’t so for Surry Central Junior Andrew Mills, his family and what has become a support group of faculty and classmates. Mills wanted to continue his longstanding family tradition of performing in band as well as playing football in a world which is altogether geared to having students pick one over the other.
Mills has sought to prove students can participate in the performing arts and athletics with the same intense effort.
“I wanted to do both so I really had to learn to manage my time,” said Mills. His mother, Sharlene Mills, who is a teacher, said last year Andrew played JV ball and the scheduling fit together better.
“This year it didn’t work out as well,” said Sharlene Mills. “We had rainy nights and other things to complicate things. He has always been interested in band as well as athletics. Both me and my husband (Bryan) want our kids to be able to do as many things as possible while they are in high school.”
She praised the cooperative spirit of band director Mike Hyde as well as football coach Monty Southern for making Andrew’s dual roles possible.
“I didn’t really think much about doing both,” said Andrew. “”I knew how people in the past here did this but now I understand how stressed they were.” Mills was referring to the long days he has put in to be able to make practices for each activity. He said his longest days were on Tuesdays which began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m. with him often leaving one practice and going directly to the other.
Mills said he had also not taken into account getting on most evenings at 6:30 pm. to begin homework and said he had to learn how to do some of the work during class to make it easier on him later that night. Ironically, the teen said he had never considered himself good at multitasking before until he had to rise to the occasion.
“Most of all I enjoy being with a great group of guys in football and a great group in band,” said Mills. “They supported me and were with me all the way through. They really helped me to do this. Everyone in band also knew how stressed out I was.”
Sharlene Mills said she feels her son’s efforts proved to others they don’t have to necessarily compromise if they are willing to work.
“For so many it comes down to deciding on one or the other,” said Sharlene Mills. “I think Andrew proved to others it could be done and he did it while at the same time keeping up his (Boy) Scouting activities and is a Life Scout.” Andrew is also a Brotherhood Member of the Order of the Arrow and is hoping to make progress this spring on his Eagle Scout project which has been put on hold of late. He is also involved in his home church, Level Cross United Methodist. He said the lull between band and football camps should be just enough for him to catch up on the paperwork.
Central sophomore student Griselda Galan was inspired enough by Mills to put pen to paper for a first time and write an article about his halftime performance on Nov. 8 for Senior Night. Galan’s article states it had been “at least 12 years” since a student had done both.
“Most football players don’t do band,” said Galan, who is a member of the Golden Eagles Color Guard. “Most of the time he was so busy with football I couldn’t interview him before any games so at first I didn’t know if I could write anything.”
Galan characterized Mills’ enthusiasm as contagious and said “he’s always pumped for everything.” She said Mills was excited the night of his performance and passionately wanted to per from with his uniform on. (Mills said he was so excited he did just that and forgot to put on gloves which left him with numb hands on the chilly evening.)
“I think he made an impression. Most people came up afterwards after the game and congratulated him,” Galan said. She wrote “Performing in the marching band while playing varsity football requires additional preparation, discipline, and time management. For Andrew Mills this was a challenge he accepted enthusiastically. Andrew loved playing both football and the clarinet. Andrew took on the challenge with great success. For the past three years, Andrew’s band director and the football coach worked together in order to allow Andrew to participate in both activities.”
Later in that same article Galan wrote “I admire Andrew because he managed to do both things he loved and even find time to participate in Boy Scouts. This is a great example of how people can work together to make things happen. Andrew had the right mind set. He knew what he wanted to do. The football coach and the band director had the right attitude for helping Andrew become successful. The football players and the band members had the right support Andrew needed. One of the things Andrew did was allow football players and band members to learn a whole new respect for each other.”
“That whole senior night the whole student body was happy and excited,” Galan said. “This year the seniors have had a theme for every football game.”
While Andrew was the first in his family to play football, his father Bryan ran track and Sharlene was a statistician for sports.
“I cannot stress enough how important it was for the support of his football coach and band director,” said Sharlene Mills. “It’s been stressful for all of us but it’s been worth it with good results happening on both sides. I’m proud of what he had accomplished this year. Both Bryan and I are.”
Indeed, Mills’ family has a history of music with the clarinet he played on senior night being used by his father and his father’s sister, Kelly Westmoreland before him, with their mother “Sylvia H” known in the community for band performances.