COCHRAN, GEORGIA: Rick and Regine Kimmel don’t teach in Cochran, Georgia anymore, and their son, Richard, is grown. But the Kimmels’ influence still is evident in the band program in the Bleckley County school system, and former students credit both Rick and Regine with helping them become the individuals they have become today.
The Kimmels have left an incredible legacy in Bleckley County.
Rick, a native of Panama City, Florida, was recognized as a professional trumpet player, and attended Troy State University, and came to Bleckley County High School, served as an assistant band director at Fitzgerald High School, and was the director of the jazz ensembles curriculum and brass instructor at Valdosta High School.
Regine, a native of Marianna, Florida, also graduated from Troy State University, where she was a flutist in the Troy State Symphonic Band, and before coming to Bleckley County, she taught in the school systems of Ware County and Valdosta.
Serving as the assistant band director, Regine worked with symphonic woodwinds, served as double reeds instructor, elementary/middle school director and band auxiliary coordinator.
For Rhett Jarrett, his former band directors were more than just teachers – they were friends, are friends and major positive influences.
“I first met the Kimmels when I was in the fourth grade when they were recruiting for middle school band. Mrs. Kimmel took me to all-state in eighth grade. Rick took me to countless auditions and competitions. They both were very involved in my development, including which artists I listen to.”
He said, “I have a masters in music as far as education. Mrs. Kimmel introduced me to Chicago and started me on trumpet.”
“Mr. Kimmel taught me classical and jazz trumpet in high school. They created a successful music program for Bleckley County,” Rhett said. “Learning music in that culture raised my standards, and allowed me to compete professionally.”
He continued, “I eventually worked on an album that won a Grammy. I arranged and recorded the horns. I was excited to show the Kimmels. That was back in 2006.”
Chris Cruz, USN Chief Petty Officer (RET), was a tuba player from 1993-1997 for the Bleckley County High School Royal Kingsmen band under the Kimmels.
“All I can do is remember all the good times we all had together. I’m sure I wasn’t the greatest student they’ve ever had, but they did a fantastic job,” Chris said. “They influenced and shaped my life at the most critical time … high school. Numerous times I wanted to walk away from music, from practice and band in general.”
He added, “However, three things kept me going… the discipline, structure and performing. I had all of these things with the Kimmels. The Kimmels have indirectly shaped thousands of lives throughout their career as a band director. Their leadership style was like no other.”
Chris laughed, “They took some smart ass kids and developed them into well respected and responsible adults.”
He explained, “I chose a different path than most of my friends did leaving high school. Rhett, Evan and Steven were some of my closest friends who pursued careers in music and/or praise and worship.”
Chris said, “I chose to serve my country. I took the discipline and structure the Kimmels taught me and used them in the Navy. I led many marching drills during boot camp because I was so far ahead of anyone. Then I was asked by the Navy if I could play an instrument.”
“For six months I played tuba for the Navy band in Chicago. We performed at many venues. I had a blast and owe the Kimmels an endless amount of gratitude for setting me up for success,” Chris said.
He said that he owes the Kimmels so much more than just gratitude. “Mr. Kimmel was such a well-respected and solid mentor to many kids in Bleckley County.”
“There is a quote from John C. Maxwell. He said, ‘One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.’ I used that in my military career, and I credit the Kimmels for helping me find myself,” Chris concluded.
Crystal Bambrough said, “The Kimmels have definitely made footprints on my heart. They have instilled an attitude of excellence in me in what I do even today.”
She continued, “They always made us work hard as Royal Kingsmen, but it definitely showed on the field when our shows would come together.”
Crystal added, “It brings me so much pride to think back on those years with them. They deserve to be honored, and I wish that Cochran could do something to show just the impact that they have had for so many years.”
Keysha (Wilmore) King was a drum major under the Kimmels. She said, “I will be forever grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Kimmel for their dedication and commitment to the Royal Kingsmen over the years.”
“They saw a strong leader within me, even when I didn’t even see it in myself. The years of memorizing music, Friday night performances, concerts, and band camps truly impacted my life as well as other students,” Keysha said. “I will be forever grateful for the wonderful memories.”
Parents felt it too … the influence of the Kimmels.
Sandy Jarrett, retired educator from the Bleckley County school system, had three children in the band program. “My oldest child, Rhett, joined band in fifth grade, so I first met Regine. Later, Matt and Becky also joined band in middle school. Rhett took some individual lessons on the trumpet from Rick Kimmel, so we met him while still in the lower school’s band.”
“Rhett was drafted to march in the high school band while he was still in seventh grade. He was so small, I had to remake his tuxedo shirt. My husband, Edgar, called him ‘the dip in the line.’ We were both proud of his skill on the trumpet, though! I had heard the band in the middle eighties … it wasn’t good,” Sandy said.
She continued, “Regine and Rick set out to turn it around.”
And they did. Sandy said, “Regine created the Dazzlers to be the epitome of respected flashy dancers to add to the band performances. She was extremely strict. It worked. Being chosen a Dazzler was a real honor.”
“My children benefited greatly from being in band: Becky learned to read music, and ended up winning a scholarship to Wesleyan to study voice. Matt loved the camaraderie more than the skills of learning the flute. But Rhett continued with a major in trumpet performance and a masters degree in church music. He owes a lot to both of them,” she said.
Sandy added, “Bleckley County did not always realize what they had in this musically talented, devoted pair of teachers until they left. They built a fine band with a closely linked feeder system and kept an award-winning band in place for many years.”
“The concept of teamwork they instilled in their band members will stay with the students who had them long after the music skill is gone. You’ll find some former members playing in local churches or in small combos,” she said. “They’re parents of current band members, and supporters of music programs in the schools. Their lives are richer for participating in an excellent band program.”
April (Baggs) Kellum was one of the Kimmels’ students too. “Rick Kimmel taught me how to read music in a old portable trailer in the sixth grade. As I grew as a musician, I worked with both Rick and Regine for the next six years.”
She said, “They set high standards for us, and knew how to encourage us to reach our full potentials. As an adult, I still hold myself to those same standards. There won’t ever be another dynamic duo like the Kimmels. They are one in a million!”
Sarah S. Rosemann said, “The Kimmels impacted my life more than any other teacher. They are a couple that is very near and dear to me.”
She continued, “I was in band from 2001-2008. Mr. K retired before my senior year. It feels like I have known the Kimmels all my life. My brother started band in sixth grade while I was a kiddo taking piano lessons alongside the Kimmels’ son, Richard.”
“I attended church with Rhett and Evan, so I also had a connection to the Kimmels through that, though I didn’t realize it until much later. As a child, I heard Rhett and Evan play at church with my mom, so I was already witnessing the impact of the Kimmels musical teachings,” Sarah said. “I was ecstatic by the time I was able to join band–I could not wait! The success that Mrs. Kimmel always strove for with her students became a deep part of me–it developed even further with Mr. K.”
She added, “They never gave up on my because it wasn’t until high school that I made honor band, and nearly cried with Mrs. K when I made All-State. I grew up in a musical family, but the Kimmels became a second set of parents guiding me in music and life.”
“Because of how their passion for music seeped into me, I wanted to continue that for others. I went on to get a performance degree and music education degree with the intent on becoming a band director, but fell in love with music theory in college,” Sarah explained.
“So I pursued a master’s in that at LSU. The Kimmels made the trip to Tennessee to attend one of my undergraduate recitals, which I could not have been more excited about, but also talk about the pressure to not make a mistake! I was beyond delighted when Mr. K agreed to play at my wedding reception. That may have been the best gift of all. You never know what life might throw at you, but music can certainly soothe your soul when nothing else can. Their discipline and passion shaped the person I’ve become,” she stated.
The stories are continuous of the impacts the Kimmels made on lives of students not just in Bleckley County but in other schools as well.
Chris Cruz summed it all up for everyone by saying, “Thank you, Kimmels, for all you have done.”
If you were a student of Rick and Regine Kimmel in Cochran or Valdosta or other communities, and would like to share something positive about them, comment below or comment on our Facebook page at facebook.com/themurphygazette.
To us, their story is surely what ‘good news’ is all about. We should all strive to be like the Kimmels.
(c)Images Sandy Jarrett/Keysha King