Music has always been a part of Olander Emmons’ life.
The 44-year-old head band director for Greenwood High School and director of bands for the Greenwood-Leflore Consolidated School District, Emmons first started performing music with his family when he was 5.
“Me and my brother and my mother, we used to go singing at churches,” he said.
His mother, Carolyn Wiley, an evangelist, would sing, and his older brother, Teno Tribblett, would play bass guitar. Emmons began playing drums at churches and then soon learned how to play the organ and keyboard.
“We were called the Tribblett Singers,” Emmons said.
The trio performed in various churches in the Greenwood area and even headed back to Chicago — where Emmons and his family are originally from — to sing at a celebration.
Emmons’ mother now has a singing group, Evangelist Carolyn Wiley and the Spiritual Stars, and his brother, continues to play in various bands at churches in the area.
As a student at W.C. Williams Elementary, Em-mons learned how to play the saxophone. He continued to play as a part of the Greenwood High School’s band, led by director Gail Griggs, whom Emmons credits as his mentor.
The saxophone took Emmons to Mississippi Valley
State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and was required to learn to play other instruments, such as the trumpet, clarinet and flute.
Emmons then began working as an assistant for Griggs, the first Black female head band director of Greenwood High. In 2013, after Griggs retired, Emmons became the school’s first Black male head band director.
“I just enjoy teaching kids,” Emmons said, explaining he loves watching when his students begin to understand what he’s taught them.
Emmons has served as director of bands for the consolidated school district since 2019, after the former Greenwood and Leflore County school districts merged.
As district band director, he has worked with the directors at Leflore County High and Amanda Elzy High to participate in local and state music competitions, although the COVID-19 pandemic put that to a stop.
“When we brought all three bands together, it was a beast,” he said with a laugh.
He said it’s a great honor to work with students from Greenwood, Leflore County and Amanda Elzy high schools.
In addition to teaching, he runs his own music and entertainment studio, Emmons Entertainment. He has run it for 10 years, and last September he opened an office for his business in a building on East Claiborne Avenue.
At his studio, Emmons teaches people how to play various instruments, records musicians’ music and even offers promotion and management for performing artists. On average, he usually works with one or two artists every week. He said he tries to finish one musician’s work before moving on to the next one.
“There’s a lot of local talent here,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a lot of young students who are going to be great musicians.”
He has worked with rappers as well as gospel Southern soul and blues artists.
Emmons, who put together a gospel music group called the Sonz of God, described his style as a combination of other styles.
•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.