Meeting Manilow: Savannah band teacher talks about big night, big award from music icon

Reginald Mitchell was awarded $10,000 for his band program at Savannah High
Reginald Mitchell with Barry Manilow
Reginald Mitchell with Barry Manilow(Reginald Mitchell)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 2:17 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - At Savannah High you don’t have to look far to find people who haven’t been impacted by Reginald Mitchell.

“He has done everything for us, outside and inside of school. He’s been a great mentor to all of us,” said senior Keshawn Dickson.

“Every time I had a problem, I could always go to him. Talk about problems at home and everything,” added fellow senior Vanessa Gutierrez.

“He’s an unsung hero. He doesn’t ask for much. He just does it for the love of Blue Jacket Nation and our scholars,” said Savannah High principal, Gequetta Jenkins.

And there’s no doubt Mr. Mitchell loves his students, which means sometimes utilizing some tough love.

“Oh, he gets on my nerves sometimes, but I love Mr. Mitchell,” laughed senior Saniyyah Singleton.

“He can be hard and tough sometimes, but I know he’s just pushing us to be better people,” senior Kaliah Orr says.

“He’s strict because he knows we can do better. He just wants the best for us,” finished Singleton.

Pushing them, like he too, once was pushed.

“Savannah High saved me. The band saved me,” said Reginald Mitchell.

While Mr. Mitchell would much prefer his students get the attention, when Dr. Jenkins heard Barry Manilow was coming to town, she didn’t hesitate.

“It was an opportunity to spotlight him.”

Putting him in the running to win $10,000 for the band program from the Manilow Music Project.

“I looked at him and he was all surprised, and I said, ‘why are you surprised? You’re amazing!’” Dr. Jenkins recalled.

When he won it wasn’t a surprise to anyone but him.

“He said, ‘hey doc I won.’ I said, ‘I know, I knew you were going to win,’ because he’s just that phenomenal and we’re grateful to have him at Savannah High,” said Dr. Jenkins.

When Reginald went to pick up the check he was in for yet another surprise.

“When he walked in the room, I’m like, ‘that’s Barry Manilow. Am I really meeting Barry Manilow.’”

A man he respects for more than just his musical talent.

“You have a lot of musicians, a lot of artists who say, ‘support arts, support arts.’ And I can say he actually put it into work to support the arts.”

While the fanfare, including a shoutout during the concert was unbelievable, what this award really means for Mr. Mitchell is a chance to get more instruments which means a chance make a difference in more kids’ lives.

“A lot of kids their parents just don’t have it. So, my thing is if I can help take that kid off the street and put him in this band room and do something positive, graduate, go into the military, workforce or college, then I’m doing my job.”

So, sure the attention is nice, but for Mr. Mitchell, even award with his name on it isn’t about him.

“This award is just not my award, this is an award for Savannah High School, Blue Jacket Nation.”

For more information about the Manilow Music Project, click here.