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Apple Valley honors longtime county band director

After 32 years of teaching middle and high school students to play the flute, trumpet, trombone and more, Apple Valley Middle School band director Jerry Ledford is retiring.

A native of Canton, Ledford has been playing the trombone since seventh grade. He was in the Pisgah High School band in 1970. He played trombone at the groundbreaking of North Henderson High School in 1991.
Ledford attended Mars Hill College in 1977, where he earned a bachelor of music education, and he earned a bachelor of science in music education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979.
During 32 years in North Carolina's public school system, Ledford has taught in Cumberland, Graham, Swain and Henderson counties. Under his direction, East Henderson and North Henderson and Apple Valley Middle School bands received their first superior ratings at the Western District North Carolina band competition.
"It's a real privilege to work with kids. It's neat watching them get started and develop musically," Ledford said. "That's the thing I'm going to miss most is the ability to work with kids."

In 1993, Ledford started the band programs at the new Apple Valley Middle and North Henderson High schools, teaching the middle school musicians in the morning and the high school band in the afternoon. In 2004, Ledford became full-time band director at Apple Valley.
At the band's spring band concert May 23, students, parents and faculty members recognized Ledford for a career of achievement. North Henderson High School band director Steve Sigmon also announced a new honor, the Gerald Ledford Legacy Award, which will go to a deserving band student each year.
"It's been a great life. I have nothing but thanks," Ledford said. "God has been very good to me. I'm thankful for these kids."
If band class sometimes seems like a circus, Ledford got a taste of the real thing in his younger days. In 1975 and '76, he played trombone for the Ringling Bros. when the circus came to Asheville. The experience was exciting because it was a chance to be part of history but it also had some of the most difficult music to play, Ledford said. He has also performed with the Brevard Chamber Orchestra, the Appalachian Brass Quintet and the Asheville and Hendersonville symphonies.
On Thursday, May 30, Ledford will conduct his last concert as band director for Apple Valley Middle School. Once the school year is over, he and his wife, Julie, are traveling to Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Back home Ledford plans to spend more time hiking, researching the history on local railroads, which he may turn into a book, and playing the trombone —recreationally, of course.

"One of my favorite quotes comes from Briscoe Darling, one of the characters on the Andy Griffith show," Ledford said. "Briscoe said 'if you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music.'"