Adam Youngman is indeed a young man.
But at 25 years old, the new band director at East Hall High School is already sharing the same field with his mentor, Dennis Naughton, the band director at Flowery Branch High School.
“To have our first game together, after all these years, was pretty crazy and really special to me,” Youngman said of the season-opening matchup Aug. 17.
Youngman graduated from Flowery Branch in 2011, then attended Georgia Southern University, where he performed in the marching band and served as a drum major.
He credits Naughton, 51, with inspiring him to pursue music education and band leadership as a career path.
“This is the first time this has happened, where I’ve actually been at a football game where a guy on the other (band leader’s) ladder was my student,” Naughton said, adding that about 15 to 20 former Flowery Branch High marching band students are now either participating at the university level or teaching in area high schools.
In addition to that football game at the beginning of the school year — and performing a piece of music together with their respective marching bands — Youngman and Naughton also shared the field together this past week during a marching band exhibition at Johnson High School put on by schools across Hall County.
Though Naughton’s first year at Flowery Branch was Youngman’s last, the two bonded. But it wasn’t immediate.
“They were really into what they were doing, and when I came in, I kind of changed the whole show concept,” Naughton said.
For example, he added numbers by the rock band Queen, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions,” to the band’s repertoire.
“I saw the energy that he brought to the program my senior year,” Youngman said. “He really raised us to another level. It just kind of clicked for me.”
Youngman and Naughton said they believed the 2011 marching band helped establish connections with the cheerleading squad, football team, student body and fan base that had not been achieved before.
“I feel like our job at a football game is to support our team and our community,” Naughton said. “I’ve always had this philosophy of making Friday night a show.”
Naughton said he cares for Youngman like a son, and as he prepares to retire in 2020, he looks to his former students to carry the torch forward.
“To know something I did influenced him enough to want to do this” Naughton said, trailing off and choking up a bit.
It clearly meant a great deal to him.
For Youngman, it’s been a dream come true.
“It’s very cool to come full circle,” he said.