When Kris Grant isn't listening to Pearl Jam, playing the drums in the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, or reminiscing about his mom’s piano solos, he's encouraging students to find their passion in music.
Grant, the new band director at West Lauderdale High School, started the job about two weeks ago when long-serving director David McKinney left for another job in Texas.
Grant said he has a lot to live up to, because McKinney was at the school for more than 30 years.
“It’s always really difficult to replace somebody who had been here at a position for a long time that everyone likes,” Grant said.
Grant was born right outside of Chicago, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Growing up, his love of music began when his mother would play the piano for him. The young musician started to play the piano when he was in the fourth grade, and eventually learned how to play the clarinet and the drums.
“I wasn’t really serious about it, but that is how I got my start,” Grant recalled.
Before moving to Mississippi, Grant studied in Michigan, Delaware and West Virginia, and taught in Maryland.
Even though he had the skills, passion and experience in music, he didn’t originally intend to study music in college. He wanted to be an engineer, because he liked building cars. That changed when he was 20 years old and decided to switch from engineering to music.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like engineering, Grant said. It just didn’t make him as excited as music did.
“It took me a little while to really realize music is what I was supposed to be doing,” he said.
Grant came to Mississippi a few years ago to work at East Mississippi Community College. During that time, he became close friends with McKinney.
Before starting at West Lauderdale, he shadowed McKinney for four days, so students could get used to him.
As he's settling in, Grant said the teaching part is easier than he thought it would be, as his students have adapted to the change. School staff and parents have also been helpful, Grant said.
“For this year, since I kind of took over for Dave late in the school year, I pretty much made the transition as smooth as possible for the students,” Grant said.
One thing Grant hopes to see is the continued growth of the school's band program. Under McKinney’s leadership, the number of students involved in the band grew.
“I want to maintain what he started, while improving the quality of the performance,” Grant said
Grant also encourages his students by telling them that playing music comes from a personal place. Through his teaching, he hopes to inspire kids to find a passion for music.
“I hope they can see how cool it is when you really love what you do and really love what you are,” Grant said.