During a recent interview, Maurio Betts is going on and on about his passion for band. As Betts tells it, becoming engaged in band five years ago is the best thing to happen for the 17 year-old East High School senior.
“It was something new for me,” Betts told MemphiSport of his desire to take up band. “When I first started band, I was just trying something new. I didn’t know I would grow to love it.”
Betts, in fact, has become so fond of music that not only does he spends countless hours at home watching video footage of college bands, but he often pretends as if he’s playing his trumpet even when his instrument isn’t in his possession.
“I go above and beyond,” Betts said of his aspirations of evolving into a fluent musician. “I’m very ambitions about it. I don’t know…I guess every day, I’m always practice because I know I have weaknesses. So every day, I’m learning to perfect my weaknesses.”
To get a clear understanding why Betts has developed a deep admiration for music, look no further than his days at Wooddale Middle School. When Betts’ mother, Kaye Davis, enrolled him at the school, it didn’t have a marching band, but had a concert choir for those who were interested in joining.
Consequently, Betts took a chance and joined the concert choir, considering it would help prepare him for the marching band that was currently in the works at the time. Within a matter of weeks, Betts came to enjoy what the choir had to offer and figured he’s take music more seriously. The very next year, Wooddale Middle’s marching band officially had been assembled and was comprised of about 40 members, one of which included Betts.
That’s when he first began to play the trumpet, an instrument in which he seemingly can’t live without today. In a nutshell, Betts without band, as his mother said, is like a pencil without an eraser.
To his credit, that Betts has steadfastly matured and flourished as an accomplished musician for East High’s band has gone virtually unnoticed by his peers, who unanimously voted him the band president this year. But according to Betts, the featured member of the Mustang marching band, his accolades and rise as a musician wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for Ollie Liddell, the former director of East’s band who is not overseeing the band at nearby Central High.
Liddell taught and mentored Betts his first two years as he became acclimated in the varsity band, teaching him everything from being dedicated to his craft as a musician to learning to simultaneously lending his ear to recognize other instruments besides his own.
“It wasn’t about him, wasn’t about one band,” Betts’ mother said of her son’s commitment to improving his musical mechanics. “If you’ve got one (musician) that’s good at what they do and everybody else is not on the same page, then the entire band is not on one accord. He’d come in there like, ‘It’s all about me.’ And he couldn’t do that. It’s one band and one sound. (Liddell) helped him a lot in that area because that was a struggle for us.”
Betts was among the East band members who voiced his displeasure when they learned Liddell would be leaving for Central after his sophomore year. Still, he said the life-changing lessons his longtime mentor taught him were priceless and will prove beneficial as he look ahead to college this fall.
Like Liddell, a former member of Jackson State University’s renowned Sonic Boom of the South, Betts has lofty aspirations of joining the school’s tradition-rich band that performs annually in the Southern Heritage Classic at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Judging by how much he’s blossomed as a musician in recent years, Betts admittedly feels good about his chances of securing a spot in one of the most prominent college bands in the America.
“I know I have all the criteria to get accepted to the (JSU) band, probably an 85 percent chance,” said Betts, who plans to audition for the band in the coming weeks. “But that’s not what I’m focused on. I’m focused on scholarships from the band.”
That, too shouldn’t be a difficult task for Betts, considering the face of East High’s marching band boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.5.