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PVHS band director leaving for job in Egypt

By Lee Weyhrich

PINSON — For 20 years Jeff Caldwell has led the Pinson Valley Marching Chiefs Band as director, but Aug. 12 he will leave the city he calls home for the land of the pharaohs.

He’s just a few weeks away from teaching at the American International School in Egypt, near Cairo.

Caldwell announced his retirement Wednesday, and celebrated the event with students, past and present, the following night in the school’s band room. The announcement came as quite a shock to many students.

Jeff Caldwell speaks to former students, current students, parents and others at Pinson Valley High School.
photo by Lee Weyhrich

“They were shocked and there were some upset kids,” Caldwell said, glancing briefly through the window of a side room at the crowd assembled in the larger auditorium. “It’s a change, and it is understandable for them to be upset. I’ve been a fixture here for so long. The main thing is that I didn’t want them to feel I was abandoning them.”

The news that he had been hired came a little more than a week before he announced his decision publicly.

He had done several interviews with the school via Skype, but actually seeing the school is part of a grand adventure that Caldwell hopes will allow him to travel the world in his spare time.

“I’m excited and a little nervous at the same time, but I’m excited about the opportunity to travel and the adventure,” Caldwell said.

Another big change from his current circumstances is the age of the students he will be teaching. Since 1988 Caldwell has been mainly teaching at the high school level. In his 20 years at Pinson Valley, he estimates that he has had roughly 2,600 students through the program, not counting music appreciation and other classes. In Egypt he will be teaching children from kindergarten through second grade.

In a heartfelt speech to students, friends, and faculty, he let them know he wouldn’t forget them.

“I just want you to know that you will always be in my heart and I love each and every one of you,” he said.

The assembled friends presented him with a new iPad to take with him on his travels.

Despite the impact this change will have on his life, Caldwell couldn’t pass up the opportunity. In Egypt he will receive a larger salary, and his apartment, insurance, transportation, and utilities will be paid. He will also receive his regular retirement pay from America.

He can also take the train from Egypt to Paris for around $350, and visiting Paris is a lifelong dream.

This doesn’t mean he’s severing ties in Pinson. Caldwell’s son and his son’s family will be living in Caldwell’s house, and they have promised to keep his room ready for him for when he returns.

“I love Pinson Valley with all my heart,” Caldwell said. “I’m going to miss the kids and the tradition that we have and have built over here. I’m going to miss the parents and my friends.”

He had one final message to all the people who have touched his life over the last two decades, but who couldn’t attend the party.

“I want to thank my students through the years from 1994 through the present day, and tell them I appreciate them and they will always be special to me,” he said.

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