Chelsea High School’s Band Director Dane Lawley will direct his final band performance on Friday, May 13, after a distinguished career that spans almost four decades. The band performance will follow a special reception at 6:30 p.m. to honor Lawley upon his retirement.
A graduate of Montevallo High School, Lawley spent his entire 38-year career at Chelsea High School. When he started the band program there it only had 12 members. Today, he has the second largest program in Shelby County with almost 190 members.
In 2015, Chelsea had 29 students to qualify for the All-County band program and 14 students who participated in honor bands at the University of Alabama and Auburn. His bands have performed across the state and nation.
Lawley has three former drum majors currently teaching music in Shelby County – Haley Spates at Mt. Laurel, Amy Lee at Vincent, and Deana Rizzo at Chelsea Middle.
Spates, who was under his instruction from sixth through twelfth grade, said Lawley has a way about him that made her want to work hard to do her best. She said Lawley never let them settle for second best.
“Every time we performed – whether on the football field or on stage – if we did not do as well as we could, he did not let us settle for that,” Spates said. “He would push us to be the very best band that we could be. Mr. Lawley takes his job very seriously and in doing that teaches his students not only music but life skills. I learned so much about being motivated, self-discipline, and responsibility.”
Spates, who served as drum major in 1996-1997, said she never wanted to disappoint Lawley – especially since she knew she would be running laps if she did.
“I will always remember working so hard in the hot sun to prepare for our field shows, but I will also remember that he made it so much fun,” she recalled. “I was always so proud to be a part of the Chelsea Band. We would always say ‘Hornet Pride’ when our band was called to attention and to this day when I hear the band say ‘Hornet Pride’ it brings tears to my eyes. This is because Mr. Lawley gave us all something to be proud of. We did have and will always have ‘Hornet Pride’.”
Her thoughts are echoed by current students who praise Lawley for the impact he has made on their lives and on the school itself.
“Mr. Lawley has made a huge impact on my life,” said graduating senior Jacob Giles. “His countless dedication to this band and its members have been greatly appreciated as I would not be the same person without him.”
“Lawley has been with the band for over 30 years,” added Elizabeth Hurley. “His legacy will be remembered for many years to come.”
Student Sarah Roland said that Lawley’s influence can be seen in the number of former students who are now concentrating on music as a college major or minor. Spates was one of those former students who pursued a career in music. As a music teacher, she now finds herself expecting the same excellence from her students as Lawley expected from her when she was a student.
“He taught me how to teach with passion, be committed to my program, and love my students. I am forever grateful for the legacy that Dane Lawley has left for his students,” she said. “My life has been forever changed for the better because of his dedication to his job and believing in me!”