Charles R. Stratford
Charles R. Stratford

Charles R. Stratford loved Muscle Shoals High School. He and his family moved to Muscle Shoals in 1965 and put down some very deep roots. He began building one of the finest band programs in the state and in the country. In just a few short years, the Muscle Shoals band was known regionally, nationally and internationally. He often talked about those first few days of starting the band with one student on the first day of lessons, and after asking her to bring some friends to the next lesson and so on, the band quickly grew to 106 members by September of 1965. In three short years, the band members had already travelled to numerous states and participated in the opening ceremonies at EXPO '67, the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Canada. This was the way Mr. Stratford worked. He built relationships, taught musicianship, and challenged his students to be the best that they could be at everything they did, the mark of a master teacher and bandsman. One article written in 1967 for the Birmingham News likened him to the optimistic Professor Harold Hill from the musical "The Music Man". Mr. Stratford lived his life that way...he excelled in many things. He was an accomplished musician; he lettered in track at LSU in 1952-'53, where he held a state record in the hurdles for a number of years; he was an actor, playing the part of Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls"; He was a Muscle Shoals City Schools Board member, where he served as board president; and many, many other outstanding accomplishments. There were so many accomplishments for the band program during that time that it is hard to comprehend. Two of the things that Mr. Stratford professed were: "Make each day count," and "Do well in everything you do." He always exhibited high enthusiasm for the band and what it does for kids. He believed in broadening their world by travelling as much as possible. He believed in putting them in front of people. His groups performed in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and parts of Europe.