Over the last four years, Russellville band director Nathan Gargus has brought music and unity to students and the community.
Gargus instructs the middle and high school bands, and teaches music theory. He said his favorite part has been the relationship he's built with the students.
"It's a fun job, the actual day-to-day working with the kids is probably the best part," Gargus said. "It brings everybody in it together, and it's interesting because it brings these people who probably wouldn't even hang out if it wasn't for band."
The Russellville band has grown in many ways under his leadership. What started out as a 50-member band has nearly doubled in size.
"It's a good problem to have," Gargus said. "But with that comes more money and more fundraising and more hard work."
Band booster President Dawn Fredrickson said Gargus is engaged in ways she's never seen.
"Mr. Gargus comes to every booster meeting," Fredrickson said. "He is directly responsible for the growth of the band."
The band has replaced instruments that were in poor shape and continues to raise funds for field trips and competitions. Through community support, they raise $8,000-$10,000 annually.
In the 2018 marching season, the band received a record number of awards, including several caption awards for best music performance and best percussion.
"This year was our best year yet," Gargus said. "It's stuff like that that really opens your eyes and leads into the next year really well."
Before he came to Russellville, Gargus graduated from University of Central Missouri with a bachelor of instrumental music education degree.
While working as a substitute teacher in Warrensburg, he said he developed classroom management skills that he uses now.
Students of good character are the products he hopes leave the band at the end of their school careers.
"If they walk out the high school doors on graduation day and they can play anything under the sun and be good citizens, then we've done our jobs," Gargus said.
His passion for music helped him decide early on that this career would work best for him.
"I'm lucky I figured it out in high school after witnessing some really good teachers," Gargus said. "Most of them happened to be music teachers so I figured, 'Well I'll give this a shot' and haven't wavered since."
Starting at the high school building, he works his way to the grade school bands every day. He said this is unique to his position as a music teacher.
"No other teacher has that ability to really see their students grow," Gargus said.
High school senior Jake Keller said having Gargus as an instructor has been encouraging personally and musically.
"He has changed (the band) a lot for the better," Keller said.
Gargus said being the instructor is more than showing up to teach music and leaving.
"There's a quote 'it's great to see kids achieve what they never thought possible' and that's kinda always stuck with me," Gargus said.
Beyond school hours, Gargus can be found among the Jefferson City Community Symphonic Band as a percussionist. He's encouraged students like Keller and senior Seth Fredrickson to do the same.
"He taught me the fundamentals, and now I'm at a level that I feel confident," Seth said. "I know that I wouldn't be at this level if Gargus hadn't come to this school."