CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He wasn't born with a director's baton in his hand, but it was close. Son of a county school bandmaster, Bob Leighty knew early on that he wanted to direct bands like his dad.
He played drums in school bands in St. Albans and at Marshall, then found his niche as a band director and itinerant music teacher for Kanawha County Schools.
In retirement, at 73, he wields his director's baton with as much feeling as ever. He was the first director of the Mountain State Brass Band and now directs the Kanawha Valley Community Band. He's preparing them for a free Father's Day concert Sunday in Kanawha State Forest.
Years ago, he helped start the ragtag River Rat Band, an indication of the mirth lurking beneath that quiet band director demeanor.
"I grew up in St. Albans. My dad was the band director at St. Albans High School. That's how I got into music, through his influence. My dad played clarinet. My oldest brother played clarinet. My second brother played tuba. Mother played piano.
"My uncle got me a pool table one year. It was about a foot and a half by 3-foot. There were two pool sticks with it that I turned into drumsticks. My dad finally gave up and finally got me a set of real drumsticks and a practice pad.
"I bought my first drum set with money I saved from my paper route. I bought it used from Gorby's for about $200. I still have it. I've played on it all my life.
"We started band in fifth grade at Central Grade School in St. Albans and I played through high school. I didn't take lessons until I was a senior in high school. My dad helped me a lot before then.
"I made All-County Band my junior year, but the fellow trying us out recommended I take some private lessons in percussion and drums. My teacher was Bill Wiant. He helped start the Symphony.
"I wanted to be a band director like my dad. I was in his band until my senior year when the schools split and he went to junior high. So I went to St. Albans my senior year with a new band director.
"I went to Marshall and majored in education with a field of music. A lot of people at Marshall just said you were a music major, but you were an education major with a field of music.
"I played in the Marshall band, which wasn't always a good thing. I belonged to Pi Kappa Alpha, and on Saturday afternoon, I'd be at the stadium in the band section while my fraternity brothers were in their section doing their thing.
"I was in ROTC at Marshall, graduated in 1961 and spent two years in the military, first at Fort Eustis, Va., then Fort Ritchie, Md., the underground Pentagon.
"It's decommissioned now, but back then, in case of warfare, the Pentagon could move from D.C. up to Fort Ritchie. There were places for all the workers to sleep and eat. I was the post transportation officer.
"That was a good two years. There were a lot of first and second lieutenants with my background, college graduates fulfilling our military obligation.
"My dad arranged an interview with Ralph Brabban, the personnel director at Kanawha County Schools. There were four schools that did not have a band director. I picked Thomas Jefferson Junior High and spent three years there. I didn't know what I was doing, but I got through it.