Holiday Concert is Price’s swan song

40 years of teaching comes to an end on Friday

By Kevin Spradlin

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HAMLET — It’s not often the conductor or choir director takes the limelight from the students on stage. After all, the best performances are the ones in which the conductor, much like an umpire in baseball, is seen but not heard.

Kevin Spradlin | Debbie Price was given flowers and a special number by her students to send her into retirement, which begins Friday at about 3 p.m.

Kevin Spradlin |
Debbie Price was given flowers and a special version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” by her students to send her into retirement, which begins Friday at about 3 p.m.

But there was no doubt that Tuesday night inside the Robert L. and Elizabeth S. Cole Auditorium at Richmond Community College belonged to Debbie Price. Price is set to retire on Friday after 40 years in education. She has been the choir director at Richmond Senior High School since 1997. Before that, she was at Rockingham Junior High School for 18 years and, for four years, at Ashley Chapel Elementary School.

During the numbers, Price danced in her seat from the piano bench, her hands in the air as she guided the Richmond Senior High School Choral Music Department, which included students from the Ninth Grade Academy. She snapped her fingers with the situation called for. Led the crowd in a group performance of “Silent Night.” Smiled and gave the students an encouraging nod even when a note was missed or a word forgotten.

After “White Christmas,” students presented Price with a bouquet of flowers and serenaded her with a special version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” The choir substituted “teacher” for “brother.” The lyrics are inspired by a story from a Boys Town orphanage in the days of post-World War I. They attempt to show how meaningful it is to care about someone, and to have someone care about you.

There is no doubt, however, that Price is ready for retirement. In fact, she had the two primary motivating factors brought up on stage just before “White Christmas.” Granddaughter Gia Brenmartin, 3, and brother Cooper, 1, live an hour away.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

“This is why I’m going home Friday,” said Price, speaking to the crowd as if they were her best friends, as she sat on the piano bench with both children during a break between numbers. Some of them were. The audience was dotted with former students from the past several years and many of them, along with friends from West Rockingham United Methodist Church where Price will continue to work as choir director, joined her on stage for “Silent Night.”

Price said afterward that the group performance is a crowd favorite. They always ask if she’ll do it again next year. This is the first time she’s had to say “no.”

“They’re here because they love music,” Price said of those in the audience.

After the Raider Marching Band and after the combined choral efforts, Price was honored with flowers and a song. When that finally ended, she was besieged by students wanting hugs (given), to make sure she’d be in class room (yes, and on time, too) or, as one student asked as she and Price walked back stage: “Are you really leaving?”

Kevin Spradlin | Debbie Price brings to the stage her grandchildren, Gia, 3, and Cooper 1, and tells the audience that "this is why I'm going home Friday."

Kevin Spradlin |
Debbie Price brings to the stage her grandchildren, Gia, 3, and Cooper 1, and tells the audience that “this is why I’m going home Friday.”

“Yes,” Price said, wiping away a tear or two and making a minor fuss about her messed up makeup.

Short of vacations and summer breaks, Monday morning will be Price’s first free weekday in decades. Her freedom will be a permanent one. What to do?

“After my third cup of coffee, I’ll decide,” Price said.

Richmond Senior High School Marching Band
Director: Mike Ward

Flute: Madeline Bellanger, Kyara Covington, Dazia Everett-Ewing, Delisa Patterson, Tyra Strong, Baylee Webb

Clarinet: Nikkita Bowden, Kyshon Ewing, Christian Gould, Miracle Jones, Takara LeGrande, Bethany Pattan, Ney-Hagee Patterson, J’Nai Wall, Stephanie Wyand

Alto saxophone: James Harrington, Tamara Nelson, Alexis Shipp, Noah Spradlin

Trumpet: Makaya Bacon, Diamond Covington, Ivan Gutierrez, Jason Jenkins, Lukas Kohl, Candice Liles, Andrew McMillan, Destiny Riggins

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

Mellophone: Analuz Carrillo

Trombone: Brittany Martin, Patrick Martin, Matthew Newton

Baritone: Dedrecus Gordon

Tuba: Devonte McNeil, Jylan Smith, Michael Thomas

Percussion: Brock Bartlett, Karon Deberry, Amber Dickens, Tatyana Dobson, Angelis Hernandez, Cameron Mabe, Cameron McDonald, Cordell Nelson, Yash Patel, Alec Rushing, Savannah Stubbs, Braxton Talbert, Mysheing Xiong

Color Guard: Elaysia Fortunte, Jadaja Martin, Jordan Martin, Sarah McMillan, Jarod Ricks, Kartier Walker, Kyia Walker, Grayson Wilkes

Drum major: Heather Bellamy, Megan Mills

Ninth Grace Academy Chorus
Director: Debbie Price

Soprano: Mary Davis, Chloe Eaton, Shania Everett, Jaikira Flowers, Harmony Jones, Brianna Oathout, Kiera Weatherford, China Williams

Alto: Abigail Barr, Jasmine Brown, Ashleigh Ellerbe, Brooklyn Jackson, Caitlyn Lord

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

Baritone/Bass: Joshua Bell, Jordan Bennett, Trent Leviner, Cameron McDonald, Nichols Pearson, Carter Roberson, Tommy Shelton, Myles Short

Richmond Senior High School Advanced Choir
Director: Debbie Price

Soprano: Brianna Allen, Abigail Blackmon, Maggi Chambers, Mara Cobb, Ahyana Cox, Nijulia Flowers, Courtney Heaton, Alexis Hailey, Hayley Kottwitz, Brandi Miller, Destiny Oakes, Aleah Pearson, Alyse Player, Ana Rivers, Majesti Robinson, Kaitlin Smith, Chyna Spencer, Keiyon Thomas, Christian Tyler

Alto: Kyra Asbury, Kaitlin Brown, Nideya David, Kinder Edwards, Asya Evens, Cameron Herring, Montana Kelley, Cassie McFayden, Gracen Murr, Rachel Priest, J’Vis Wall, Denisha Watkins, Alliah Zinnerman

Tenor: Jeremy Harris, Zykie Lockhart, Elonte Riley, A.J. Watkins, Jahmal Wray

Baritone/Bass: Dadriene Davis, Dante Davis, Blake Dawkins, Houston Griffin, Juwan Lockhart.


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  • Lisa McRae

    Let me start by saying how much I enjoyed last night’s performance. However, it was bitter sweet. I was one of the privileged students of Mrs. Price, many years ago and to this day I am so thankful she was my teacher. She is a special lady
    and she has touched so many.

    I would like to say how disappointed I am in the School system and I hope they are disappointed with themselves as well. Last night they should have taken the opportunity to show some well deserved appreciation to Mrs. Price, but they failed!

    I am thankful to her students who stepped up and took the time to make the event a special one for her and her family.


    School system-Fail

  • Jim Butler

    I am so glad I was there to see Debbie’s last performance. As usual, her kids were fantastic. Thank you for all you have done to better the lives of Richmond County kids. You will be missed!

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