Following in his grandfather’s footsteps

RHS junior joins grandfather in performing for Baldwin Pops; group to perform April 9 in Robertsdale

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/29/17

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — It’s pretty easy to tell that Harold Clendenin is proud of his grandson, Blake Odom.

“He’s a very talented musician,” says Clendenin, within about 30 seconds of …

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Following in his grandfather’s footsteps

RHS junior joins grandfather in performing for Baldwin Pops; group to perform April 9 in Robertsdale

Posted

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — It’s pretty easy to tell that Harold Clendenin is proud of his grandson, Blake Odom.

“He’s a very talented musician,” says Clendenin, within about 30 seconds of beginning a sit-down interview, along with his grandson, a junior band member at RHS, and RHS assistant band director Mark Meadows. “I’m really hoping he will go on to study music in college and, if he wants to, he can take it to the next level and earn a pretty good career for himself.”

But Clendenin is not just a proud grandpa. He’s pretty proud of the entire band program at Robertsdale High School, a program that he can claim as part of his own legacy.

“They have built an excellent program here,” he said, “with excellent instructors who really strive for greatness out of these students.”

He’s a proud papa on many levels.

His musical career began while he was still in middle school in Mobile and continued through high school and college.

In 1959, fresh from graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, Clendenin got his first job, hired by RHS Principal Virgil Buck to be the director for the Golden Bear Marching Band.

“He interviewed me and told me he needed someone to ‘beat the drum,’” said Clendenin. “I said, ‘I think that will be possible.’”

He remained at RHS as band director until 1974, retiring in 1996 after serving 29 years with the Alabama National Guard, the last 10 years performing with the 151st Alabama Army National Guard band based in Montgomery.

He has been a member of the Baldwin Pops, filling a slot playing baritone sax for more than 15 years.

With Clendenin as a role model, it’s not hard to believe that Odom was exposed to music at an early age.

He too joined the band in the sixth grade, at Central Baldwin Middle School, then on to Robertsdale High School, where he is part of the band’s percussion ensemble.

“It’s not a stretch to say he plays over 60 instruments,” said Meadows, who came to Robertsdale as assistant band director in 2013. Meadows served as interim band director in 2014 before Dayna Brannan was hired as the school’s band director in 2015.

Soon after moving to Baldwin County, Meadows too joined the Baldwin Pops Band.

“I just enjoy playing music,” Meadows said, who is also part of the percussion section with the Baldwin Pops. “This gives me a chance to do something that I love and give back to the community.”

Last year, when a slot opened up in the Baldwin Pops percussion section, Meadows approached Odom about joining. He jumped at the chance to perform with a group of elite musicians. The fact that his grandfather was one of them didn’t hurt either.

“He’s certainly a better musician than I ever thought about being,” Clendenin says of his grandson.

This year, the Baldwin Pops, under the direction of Roger Jones, a retired music professor from Louisiana, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a series of 13 concerts, including a concert beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 9 at the Baldwin County Coliseum in Robertsdale.

“This is the first time the Baldwin Pops has ever played in Robertsdale,” Meadows said, “and I’m excited about our local residents getting a chance to hear what we have to offer, especially since the band includes several local residents from right here in the Central Baldwin area.”

The venue can hold about 600, Meadows said, and admission to all Baldwin Pops concerts is free for everyone.

“We want everyone to come out and hear some great music performed by great musicians,” Clendenin said.

The concert will also be the first of two concerts as part of the John W. Allen Memorial Scholarship Series.

Named for a local resident who took up music and joined the Baldwin Pops Band in his retirement, the series invites a select group of students from throughout Baldwin County to perform at two concerts with the band every April.

The students must complete an essay, have their director’s recommendation and are selected based on their musical resume, Meadows said.

In addition to Odom, there are four students from Baldwin County participating in the series, Patricia Langham, Mia Martinez, Michael Zona and Grace Orosco.

During the second concert, which will be held beginning at 6 p.m. April 23 at Fairhope’s Henry George Park, three scholarships will be given, including a $1,500 scholarship for first place; $1,000 for second and a $500 for third.

Following the two April concerts, the Baldwin Pops has scheduled two Memorial Day weekend concerts, Friday, May 26 at Foley’s Heritage Park, and Monday, May 29 at Fairhope’s Henry George Park before completing the 2016-17 season with a Fourth of July concert at Henry George Park.

If you would like more information about The Baldwin Pops and a complete list of dates and times for its concerts, visit baldwinpopsband.com.