Moving to the sound of a beat


For the past two and a half years, Donaldsonville native Chris Alexander has been working as a loader-operator at the CF plant. That’s where he makes his money. But, for the past 12 years, he’s been a faithful part of the Donaldsonville High School band, first as a member then as a volunteer. That’s where he gets his blessing.

Alexander joined the DHS band as a freshman in 2000 playing the baritone and was the assistant section leader. In four years, he worked his way up to captain and playing for the All-Star band. His dream then was to become a member of Southern University’s marching band. The dream was near reality until he got a taste of some real money.

I wanted to go to Southern, but first I wanted to make some money,” Alexander said. “So I got my first plant job and it was decent money for me at the time. So I’m making money or whatever and I got used to. It kind of killed my dream.”

Since he gave up on his dream he decided to volunteer for the band. Now, Alexander said he tells the band not to follow in his steps in that aspect. He wants them to be dedicated and not allow distractions to get in the way of their true dreams.

Alexander said even to this day he’d go to a Southern game and the band playing and get disappointed in himself.

I say ‘I could’ve done that,” Alexander said. “I always wanted that. I had my chance to do it, but didn’t do it.”

To the band members now, Alexander has no shame and telling them to go for something that he didn’t.

I tell them, ‘If that’s what you want to do, go for it,” Alexander said. “Don’t sit there and want to do and not do it. Follow your first mind. I didn’t follow mine and I regret it to this day.”

Hopefully they take heed to that, all I can do is tell them.”

The band members like having Alexander around, he plays several roles that benefit them. One reason the kids love him is because he's the buffer between the students and the parents, as well as the students and the band director, according to Jonafer Mills Jr., DHS band alumni. Mills took heed to Alexander’s advice and followed his music dreams and is part of Southern’s Human Jukebox band.

It’s very calming knowing you can take up any problems you're having and bring them to someone that can be your mouthpiece,” Mills said.

Chis brings a spirit of security to the band world,” Mills Jr. said. “It’s a big plus when, as a student, you can look to someone who has been in your position and knows what it takes to be successful.”

Alexander has done it all for the band, from opening the doors to the band room when the band director, Jamal Washington, couldn’t be there and even arranging music pieces. Mills said Alexander is very serious about the band, and yet has a “fun and easy-going, which causes for great times.”

He is a blessing to DHS marching band because many wouldn’t dare deal with what he does,” Mills said.

Mills plays the cymbals and by being a percussionist, he said Alexander hasn't really helped me musically, however he has been a positive example.

He helped instill a sense of discipline in me as far as band goes,” Mills said. “He's showed me the benefits of hard work and determination through his life. He has taken me under his wing and given me a few tips on what I needed to maintain a healthy and respectable lifestyle.”

Mills said Alexander knows the world around the students and knows what is necessary to come out on top.

He's blessed me with some of that wisdom and for the students that are wise enough to have in-depth conversations with him, they'll get the same,” Mills said.

Mills added: “From where I sit we all love him as a friend, band alumni, as well as an authority figure. I’m proud to say I'll be joining the ranks and working along side him.”

The respect Alexander gets from the band now wasn’t given, he earned it first with the parents. When he started, he said he had to show the parents he is trustworthy of being around their kids. He was a kid himself, especially at that particular time.

I had to put forth a lot of effort to show I’m responsible and can actually teach kids something. And, I did that,” Alexander said.

Now, the parents see the work he’s doing with the band and their kids when the head director can’t be there and Alexander is there. Alexander said that’s a good feeling.

When you have over 60-plus kids and the parents back you 100 percent, that feels good. Especially when they see the progress and the performances.” Alexander said.

Alexander said he especially like the group he is working with now. He said they are really into the band are a very dedicated.

This group here is so dedicated and they remind me of the group I came up with. We were dedicated,” Alexander said. “I love them. They a good group to work with, they are respectable.”

Alexander admitted it gets hectic for him at times when works a 12-hour shift at the plant, then goes to the band room because he also fathers three children. Luckily for him though, they all love music he said.

One message that Alexander said he had to learn for himself and that he always wants the band to know is to have priorities in order.

“It’s not all about Southern, it’s not all about band. It’s about getting an education and getting exposed to other schools.” Alexander said.