A Leader Unlike Any Other: Ryan Dukes
Mention the Band of Blue to anyone in Habersham County and more than likely you're going to hear the name Ryan Dukes. Dukes has been the leader of Habersham Central High School's "Band of Blue" since 2007, and has gathered numerous accomplishments from coast to coast. Under Dukes, the Band of Blue has won the US Bands Southern States Championships twice, placed third in the US Bands National Championships and placed first in Music in Allentown, PA. The Band of Blue even traveled as far as Los Angeles, California to perform in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.
"My entire career has been built on wanting to teach kids how to be better people through music. I want people to look back on their times in the Band of Blue as some of the most rewarding times of their lives. I just hope I have given all of my students a tiny amount of love as I have gotten from them over the years." - Ryan Dukes
From Dukes' vantage point, the passing of the Easton Foundation's namesake, Easton Singleton, left an impression never before seen in his time. "I had not witnessed a group of students and community come together with such a focus on loving and supporting a foundation in this manner," said Dukes. Each year, Dukes has brought the Band of Blue to the annual Battle of the Heroes where a number of students kick off their first event of the school year while being apart of one of Habersham County's largest and highly regarded student organizations. "For the band, giving our support by participating each year in the Heroes game is truly an honor," said Dukes.
Dukes, who announced his retirement from Habersham Central in 2021, is known for the energy and excitement his bands bring to each event. Similar to the Easton Foundation, not only is Dukes excited to have students be apart of something much bigger than one individual, he wants their investment to go beyond a duty to perform. "We strive to be the best all the time, every time. I want the kids to love what they do and play with their heart for the fans, team, families and themselves," said Dukes.
This years Battle of the Heroes marks just one of the many "lasts" Dukes will experience over the next several months. Habersham Central has named a new band director who is already working alongside Dukes to allow for a smooth transition. Jacob Weinstein was announced as Habersham Central's new Director of Bands in early 2022 and will be the fourth band director since the 1970s. Both Dukes and Weinstein will be present for Dukes final time leading the Band of Blue for the Battle of the Heroes on August 6th.
In July, the Easton Foundation announced that the 9th Battle of the Heroes game would be taking place on August 6th with kickoff inside Raider Stadium at 7 PM. The Carr Law Group Fireworks Extravaganza will begin 15 minutes after the conclusion of the game.
The Easton Foundation 501 (c)(3) is based out of Habersham County, Georgia. After losing Easton Singleton, a beloved friend and teen to a car accident in 2012, the community rallied together to turn tragedy into triumph. The Easton Foundation was founded by Casey Lizama shortly after Easton’s passing in 2012 as a way to help other teens with pain and loss, and also encourage youth to connect with their community and become leaders. Each year the Easton Foundation not only provides assistance in times of need in the community, but also awards numerous scholarships to help teens in the northeast Georgia community pursue their dreams of higher education.