Former classmates reunite to lead EMCC Mighty Lion Band | Education

SCOOBA — Chris King and Ron Gann laughed while looking at a grainy photo taken of the two of them during their time together as members of the Itawamba Community College Band where they attended school from 1989 to 1991.

“We both had mullets back then,” King said. “Look at us now. I don’t have any hair and Ron doesn’t have much.”

Nearly three decades after their time at Itawamba, the two men have reunited at East Mississippi Community College. King, director of bands for EMCC, hired Gann about a month ago to fill an assistant director of bands position.

The two men joked about working together in 2014 when they saw each other for the first time since their college days. King was EMCC’s assistant director of bands at the time and Gann was the director of instrumental music for Iowa Western Community College.

The two colleges squared off against each other Dec. 7, 2014, at Biloxi High School’s Indian Stadium for the NJCAA National Football Championship, when the EMCC Lions defeated Iowa Western 34-17.

“Chris said then, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we ever worked together at the same community college?’” Gann said. “And here we are.”

King, who was recently promoted to the director of bands position, said when he began looking for someone to fill his old post, he immediately thought of Gann.

“I knew he had a heart for kids and that’s what I want more than anything in the program,” King said. “Secondly, he is a woodwind specialist and ever since we were in junior college I have been amazed at how phenomenal he plays. This guy is a musical monster, and he has a great work ethic.”

For Gann, the move to Mississippi is a homecoming of sorts. He grew up in Hamilton, Ala., which is located across the state line from Fulton, home to Itawamba Community College. Both men played for the ICC jazz band, with King on trumpet and Gann on saxophone.

“The funny thing about that situation was I was all gung-ho to go to Ole Miss and Chris wanted to go to Southern Miss,” Gann said. “We wound up switching that around. Chris went to Ole Miss and I wound up going to Southern Miss.”

After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance, Gann enrolled at the University of Nebraska where he earned a master’s degree in Woodwind Pedagogy.

“It is a master’s in music but it specializes in teaching all of the woodwinds, not just saxophone but also clarinet, flute, oboe and bassoon,” Gann said. “At the time I thought if I were to teach at a college level, it would be easier to find a job if I could teach five instruments rather than just one.”            

After graduating, Gann joined the U.S. Army, playing saxophone and clarinet for the United States Continental Army Band for three years. He served his final year in the Army as the saxophone instructor for the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Va.

Gann then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving as clarinetist and saxophonist with the Heartland of America Band at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb., touring the Midwest. He later served with the 737th Training Group Drum and Bugle Corps at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and as an academy military trainer for the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

After 18 years of service, Gann retired from the military and accepted the position at Iowa Western Community College.

While at the University of Southern Mississippi, he met his wife, Rebecca Gann, who also graduated from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in Woodwind Pedagogy. The couple have three children: Sarah, 16; David, 13; and Hannah, 9.

Ron Gann’s parents still reside in Hamilton and he and his wife are looking forward to renewing old friendships formed in Mississippi. Ron Gann and King have invited some of their former classmates from Itawamba Community College to attend a football game and catch the band’s performance.

There is another reunion Ron Gann and King are looking forward to as well.

“Our jazz band director at ICC was Randy Mapes, who is now the assistant director of bands at Hinds Community College,” Ron Gann said. “When we play Hinds, we will get to see him. I am really looking forward to that.”

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