Turnmyre, a music education graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College, began his tenure in music education as a volunteer assistant band director at Hickory High School while pursuing a degree in Christian music education. After searching to no avail for employment in four different states and some additional time in college, Turnmyre began his career in teaching in the Rowan County School System at a local junior high and then later as an assistant band director at East Rowan High School.
Following a brief stint in the piedmont, Turnmyre set his ambitious gaze to the west and the mountains of Northwestern North Carolina. Turnmyre has always held a fascination and love for Appalachia that began when during his summer vacations as an adolescent when he would tag along to the area with his father, who at the time worked for a telephone company and traveled to different areas of the state as his assignments required.
“Whenever we would come up here I always thought I would like to live up here someday,” said Turnmyre.
His dream finally came into fruition in the fall of 1984 when he developed a contact with a representative from the Duncan Music Company in Winston Salem who knew of a band director’s position at Ashe Central High School. Although the school’s marching band was still active, interest in it had dropped off in recent years and the program struggled with only 17 marching Panthers. But with the help of then Drum Major Pam Barlow and a high school year book, the duo set out to recruit former members and was eventually able to increase the band’s size to 50 strong.
Turnmyre remained at Central for the next 15 years and following the county schools’ consolidation in 1999 he became Ashe County High School’s first band director. Since then, the awards and accolades for the Husky Vanguard Marching Band have continued to crowd the shelves of the high school’s trophy case. Turnmyre has directed the marching band in countless performances including five major college football bowl games (2002 Nokia Sugar Bowl, 2004 FedEx Orange Bowl, 2006 Toyota Gator Bowl and Liberty Bowl, and 2008 BCS National Championship game) and scores of field competitions. The vanguard marching band has been named the Honor Band for the Carolina’s Carrousel Parade in Charlotte and for the parades in Kannapolis and Concord on two separate occasions. Under Turnmyre’s direction, the band has won the parade competition of the annual Salisbury Holiday Parade more than any other high school in North Carolina. The high school’s symphonic band has also earned five state honor ratings of superior, which is the highest honor a band can receive in North Carolina.
It is with bitter sweet emotion that Turnmyre will now hand the program over to the next director who he is hopeful will bring a fresh perspective to the program while retaining the marching band’s overall vision.
“Teaching in Ashe County has been the best years of my life,” said Turnmyre. “I’ve had such good fortune with the area, community, and the people. I’ve been provided with so many opportunities to practice my trade because this area is so supportive of the arts.”
Turnmyre also explained that the rich musical tapestry that Ashe County offers has created a lot of enthusiasm and support from the local community, which he believes is “a luxury that many of my fellow band directors in other parts of the state don’t enjoy.”
But is also the relationships he has developed within the community that will make it all the harder to part ways with the high school and the marching band.
“Absolutely without a doubt it is the people I work with in the band program that I will miss the most,” he said. “I’ve developed wonderful relationships with parents and the people within the community who call upon us to perform at different events. It’s also been a real privilege to teach them something that they can enjoy after graduation and possibly use as a profession.”
Despite the demanding nature of overseeing hundreds of aspiring musicians on a yearly basis, Turnmyre insists that he has not lost that zest or thrill of watching his bands perform. “I got that same feeling when I watched the band take to the field for the last football game that I did for my very first game years ago,” he said. “I’ve always got that feeling of pride when they go out and perform for people.”