Keep the legacy going
By Huining Fan

Ashley Bell, 47, and Aaron Bell, 44, co-directors of the Grayson County marching band, pose in front of a school bus as Grant Wood’s work “American Gothic”.

"I often say we raise other people's kids. Almost more than we raise our own," says Ashley Bell. She and Aaron Bell are co-directors of Grayson County Schools' bands. Their daughter, Addison, 11, has grown up a band kid. Ashley says Addison is almost like a "little sister" to the other band members.

Ashley and Aaron met at Western Kentucky University, where they were both music majors. Now they share their love of music with the children of Grayson County.

Unlike other classes, where students only have a teacher for one year, Ashley and Aaron grow relationships with the children over many years. So they feel "pretty close to all of the band kids." According to Ashley, the goal "ultimately is to get all those kids that are at the middle school to be in this program, and those kids are unique because they'll have the program from fifth grade all the way until they graduate from high school."

Co-directing the school bands is no easy job, however. Saturdays can be over 16-hour days. Ashley says, "Some mornings we will leave by 7a.m. If it's a long enough day, we won't get home until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m." Despite all the hard work, it's worth it. Aaron says this is their life; this is what their family does.

Every Wednesday, Addison rides horses and does extra school lessons to address her dyslexia and dysgraphia. Ashley says Wednesdays are her favorite days because she gets to devote so much time to her daughter. "On top of the crazy schedule, we do horses, and we do three lessons a week for dyslexia and dysgraphia."

Ashley and Aaron balance raising Addison with growing the music program. Ashley says, "We are trying to keep a tradition here; the legacy begins with that fifth grader." She is hopeful that the legacy will continue to grow. She says she's "been moved" by these children and what they have accomplished, and hopefully, they are creating "a tradition here that will carry on for generations to come."

Ashley and Aaron Bell teach one of several band classes at Grayson County High School. The students are running through their choreography for the halftime show.

The Grayson County marching band practices its 2022 show, “Cold as Ice.”

Ashley talks with one of her band class’s students before class starts.

After school, Addison joins her parent’s class to watch the marching band’s rehearsal.

A huge Jennifer Aniston poster hangs in Ashley’s office because many people mention that Ashley used to look like Aniston when she was younger.

As usual, Ashley and Aaron eat lunch in their office at Grayson County High School.

Aaron teaches the band during their rehearsal. The average bystander may not be able to hear differences in tone or melody, but Aaron’s ears are carefully attuned to the nuances of the music.

Ashley and Aaron hang out with the band parents after practicing. JD Kinchelbe’s face appears in the rearview mirror.

While waiting during their halftime show, Ashley and Aaron hang out with their high school principal, Lacy Cox.