After directing the band at Pepperell High School for 14 years and helping his students win multiple competitions, Bob Steelnack is making a change.

This past school year was the last for Steelnack in Dragon Country. He and his wife, Fay Ellen Foster, are moving to Cartersville, where he will be the director of the Cartersville High School band.

“This is an opportunity in a lot of different ways,” said Steelnack. “It is a bigger band program and a group with a lot of opportunity for growth. I was looking for a new challenge.”

The move will be convenient for his wife, as well.

“My wife is a DermaTran territory manager, and part of her territory is Carters ville, so the move will make it easier for her,” he explained.

He’s seen the Dragon Band come out on top for the last four years, including consistent firsts in its division at Peach State Marching Festival and Competition — and even winning the whole competition one year.

He has been on many trips with his band, including trips to Chicago for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and to Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Parade. Together, they’ve marched at Disney World and kept the crowd going at football games across the region.

Even though he is excited about the change, the move is bittersweet.

“I have had conversations with my students and discussed my leaving,” he said. “It has been hard. It is hard to leave the staff, too. The faculty and staff and administration at Pepperell High is amazing. I’ve had so much support.”

He is especially appreciative of the principal, he said.

“Phil Ray has been a great leader for me to work for,” Steelnack said. “He is very supportive of the band program and knows its importance. He knows Pepperell has a well-rounded music program and he knows how important it is for the kids to have those opportunities.”

His best moments at Pepperell include watching students continue their love of music, he said.

“Watching a kid come through the band program and then see them continue their love of music after they leave high school,” he said, smiling. “That is the best feeling.”

He has seen many of his students follow through, he said.

“They come to visit me or keep in touch and let me know they’ve continued their training alone or have gone on to play in college,” he said.

Being in the band means a lot more than some realize, Steelnack said.

“Working with these kids in Lindale, they are the hardest workers and they love doing it,” he said. “Band develops leaders. It is not just about the marching. This is about their future. They are learning to lead and be influential.”

Steelnack hopes the students will continue to be the best they can be.

“I expect to see the Dragon Band win more competitions,” he said.

One thing that won’t change for Steelnack is some of his local musical interests.

Steelnack plays with the Northwest Georgia Winds, the Clocktower Jazz Ensemble, a classic rock band called Back in the Day and another band called Ready-or-Not.

“I plan to still be an active performer with those groups,” he said. “The drive isn’t that far and even though I know I will be busy and I am always open to new opportunities, I will still be participating with them.”