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Bluestone band director Ricky Allgood directs his final spring concert at the school where he has taught for 42 years. (David Conner II photo) / May 16, 2018
Ricky Allgood, for 42 years the leader of one of Virginia’s most decorated school band programs, is putting down his baton.

The longtime Bluestone music teacher and Baron Marching Band director is calling it a career after inspiring and influencing generations of local students with his love of music and precision showmanship. The Marching Barons are regular winners in high school marching band competitions; Allgood also directs the Bluestone Middle School band and concert bands at both the high school and middle school.

He admits leaving is bittersweet: “I have no regrets. I still love the kids but it’s getting harder. They seem less motivated. It’s time for me to go.”

Allgood is only the third band director since Bluestone High School was established. The first was Grover Harris. He was followed by Walter Conner, who died earlier this month at the age of 84.

Allgood credits Conner with his career choice and his lifelong love of music. “I knew since the tenth grade I wanted to teach music because of Walter Conner. I’ve been blessed and can say I never worked a day in my life because I consider what I do a true love.”

Allgood, who plays the trumpet, says he was never good enough to make a living as a professional musician — “I knew my limits.” But he was good enough to lead a top-notch program and to win countless awards. He believes he’s taught more than 5,000 students during his tenure and won well over 1,000 trophies.

His bands have performed up and down the East Coast. The Marching Barons have played in the Bahamas, Disney World, Universal Studios, and Nashville, among other places, and have the honor of being the only Virginia high school band to march in the Raleigh, N.C. Christmas Parade.

Thirty-three years ago, Allgood began the Baron Invitational, another of his legacies. It was the first time that school bands in Southside could perform in a competitive environment. “Before that they would play during halftime shows at the high school football games and maybe a concert or two during the school year.”

Over time, the invitational grew, becoming one of Mecklenburg County’s most popular events.

“I could not have accomplished everything or done my job without the band boosters and parents. They run the concession stands, served as chaperones and always been there for the students,” said Allgood.

Loyalty to Allgood flowed not only from the band parents, but from his students, past and present. One former student, Chris Smith, returns to Bluestone each summer to help with the Baron summer band camp, a week-long program where students learn music and drill for the coming year’s halftime shows. Several current students say they will not be part of the band going forward now that Allgood is retiring. He is the reason they joined and stayed.

This news saddens Allgood, but at the same time, he smiles knowing that despite his sometimes gruff manor, his students always knew he cared about them. “My love of kids is the main reason I do this job,” said Allgood.

“There are so many people I want to thank and so many memories,” he added. He lists among his most memorable moments the 15 years his three children were in school and members of his band. He also praises two school superintendents — longtime school chief Jerry Austin and the current superintendent, Paul Nichols. Allgood also offers warm words for a former BHS principal, Chris Coleman. While he said he appreciates his years of good relations with school administrators, these three were standouts.

“Of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my wife, Jane Allgood. Everybody says you’ll know when it’s time, and it’s time,” said Allgood.

“I’ve said my goodbyes,” he said. “They’re really not goodbyes, because I think I’m going to be seeing them again, just in a different situation.”

Sunday night, May 6, marked his last band concert at the school. Allgood began packing up his office earlier this week with the help of his students, among them were graduating senior Victoria Thompson and junior Madison Yancey who say that the program won’t be the same without Allgood. In fact, Yancey, who was tapped to be the Senior Drum Major for the coming school year, is one of several current students not participating in band for the 2019-20 school year.

Though he’s retiring, Allgood says he probably won’t be away from music. He regularly performs at Memorial Day ceremonies and other events around the county.

As he walks out the door for the last time, he looks back at the classroom that has been his life for so many years — lined with trophies and instruments. Softly in the distance, you can hear a piano and a drum played by two of the many students who learned to love music because of Ricky Allgood.

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Well done, Ricky! Enjoy every moment of retirement. 42 years of teaching---what a great accomplishment! Something to be proud of for sure!

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