CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He doesn't know the meaning of humdrum. The upbeat rhythm of Brandon Willard's life is nonstop rat-a-tat-tat.
A passionate percussionist, he teaches music at the new West Side Elementary School and directs the countywide Magnet Music Program based there. That's his day job.
He's also a part-time band director at UC. He teaches the percussion ensemble at GW, teaches a steel drum group at St. Mark's, plays steel drums with VooDoo Katz and plays with the Lipzz Big Band, the full orchestra that accompanied Landau Murphy on his December tour.
A 34-year-old Shinnston native, he graduated from WVU where he drummed in the Mountaineer Marching Band, the Pride of West Virginia.
He spent five years as band director at Logan High School. Want busy? Try handling all the duties of a high school band director and commuting between Logan and Charleston.
He talks fast, of course, in a voice that booms like a big bass drum. A dynamic, cheerful demeanor reflects the vigor he brings to every obligation.
"I grew up in Shinnston. Music was a big part of my life. My dad sang in the church choir. Mom got me piano lessons early on. I would pick out melodies from cartoons and go figure them out on the piano.
"I didn't like piano lessons at all. I should be a better pianist considering the number of years I took lessons.
"Drums happened more naturally than piano. I would play on anything. I constantly got in trouble with a pencil in school because I was always doing some sort of rhythm.
"I didn't really start drumming until fourth grade. I was getting ready for band. Mom loved the saxophone. I told her I would try the saxophone but wanted to do drums. We took a little music test in school. They said I could play either one. I said I wanted to play drums. I was the only drummer in the fourth and fifth grade group.
"I think it was a natural thing. MTV was just coming out, and I got to see a lot of music on TV. Drummers were cool. I took to that.
"I cut grass in the summers all through middle school and high school and saved the money to buy this drum set I saw in the paper.
"I never once thought of drumming or music as my career because I also loved science and space. NASA was in its heyday, and I loved everything about it. In middle school, I went to space camp in Alabama.
"Aerospace engineering was what I wanted to do, but I was drumming the whole time. I never realized until I was a junior in high school that music was more natural. I finally said I wanted to teach music.
"I studied drums for years privately. My private drum instructor was married to my middle school band director. They lived in Clarksburg. I called them my second parents because I was with them almost as much as my own parents.
"I majored in music education and percussion at WVU. When I was a senior in band in high school, we were at the Buckwheat Festival in Preston County. My dad was the chaperone. I was the drum major. We were waiting on some side street. I heard this drum line playing. They were up on the football field. We walked up the bank to look, and it was the WVU drum line. I looked at him and said, 'I really want to do that.' Later that spring, I auditioned and made the drum line.
"Once I made the drum line at WVU, there was no doubt about what I wanted to do. My time in Morgantown I wouldn't trade for anything. My ideas on how to teach and write things and do things culminated in Morgantown.
"After I graduated, I taught for six months at St. Mary's Elementary and Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg. They were in need of a music teacher really bad. I told them I was getting married in June and moving to Charleston. They said they wanted me anyway.
"It was a great experience for me. When you come out of college as teacher, you think you can conquer the world. Then you get in a classroom and have no clue what you are doing. It's trial by fire. I called on a lot of old friends and directors for help.