Photos by Rome City Schools
After last year’s celebration of academic achievement, many Rome High graduates spent the next months preparing to make a college campus their new home.
For Tyler Wells, a 2019 RHS graduate and drummer for Rome’s Sound of the Seven Hills Marching Band, his future was still uncertain. He had set his sights on attending Tennessee State University and playing in their marching band, but he had missed some important steps along the way. Lucky for him, he was able to find direction from his Rome City Schools community.
Any person who has had dealings with Wells agrees that he is a respectful young man and he is talented beyond belief. He has been a part of Rome Bands since sixth grade and he plays several instruments. His love for music started when he watched a movie that is all about overcoming adversity and using music to do so.
“When I was very young, even before I started playing in the Rome High Band, my favorite movie was “Drumline”. I remember beating on bottles and things like that, and now that I can look back, I think that was the start of my career.”
In the movie “Drumline”, the main character played by Nick Cannon earns a spot on the drumline with one of the top-ranked Historical Black Colleges (HBC). Halftime performances by HBC bands are known for the showmanship exhibited on the field, and Cannon secures his spot among the top musicians in his class, all while not being able to read sheet music.
“I found myself copying what I saw in that movie. I watched it over and over again,” Wells recalls, ” and I was drawn to the snare drum because of the popping noise I could make and the fact that it can be a solo instrument. The snare drum really sticks out to me the most.”
Wells went on to be a standout band student and played the snare drum during his time with Rome. He also got a good look at what the next level would look like while playing with the award-winning Wolves under the leadership of Director of Bands, Chad Hannah, and his group of music educators. The rigors of practice, especially the amount of work it takes to win Best in Show at competitions, was his norm and college seemed to be the next natural progression for Wells.
However, he needed help on the front end of getting into college, because his talent would certainly allow him a shot at playing with his dream college band. Wells sought guidance from a person he knew could help, Rome City Schools Board member and a friend of his family, Elaina Beeman.
“I was working with another student through Project Soar, and he mentioned that he wanted Tyler to be his roommate at Tennessee State University,” Beeman explained. “This was a dream they had been talking about for years. I told them that if they wanted to attend TSU, then we would make it happen. I have known Tyler and his family for a while now, and I never realized how talented he is. When he told me that he could play multiple instruments, I was blown away. I asked him if he had applied to any other colleges and he told me that he only wanted to attend TSU.”
Where there is a will, there is a person who will never stop helping until crossing the finish line.
After asking if he had auditioned, Beeman found out that Wells had not applied to TSU. He had not even taken the ACT, an exam that colleges use to determine admission. Beeman walked the young musician through the process of applying to TSU, he signed up and took the ACT several times to make the score he needed to get in, completed his financial aid application and submitted his audition video, all under the guidance of Beeman who refused to let him give up on his dream.
Then, it was time to wait on a response.
While many students were buying curtains and bed sheets for their dorms, Wells spent part of his summer on the edge of his seat, and watching his email and mailbox like a hawk.
“I know he had to be nervous,” Beeman said. “I had already been in contact with the senior recruiter for TSU and he gave Tyler’s audition video directly to the band director. He is talented, but he is also very humble and just a really good kid. I know he was praying and I was praying too,” she laughed, “because it was crunch time. We were going through this process near the end of his senior year.”
Beeman asked Wells to ask his teachers to write letters for him and she also penned a recommendation for the aspiring TSU Tiger. And after a few weeks of silence from the college, they decided to follow up, and see if he would get to pack a bag and leave for school in the fall.
“All of his friends were getting their acceptance letters and he had not heard anything from TSU,” Beeman remembered. “I told him that we were not going to give up. We were going to keep the faith. After following up with admissions and fixing a few things on his application, we had to wait again. Then one day, he came to my office to see if there was anything else he could do. I told him to call once more. They told him that his acceptance letter was in the mail!”
And, TSU awarded him $6,000 a year in scholarship money to help with his expenses.
“One of my favorite memories while marching in the Rome High School Band was playing at the Georgia Dome for the state championship game,” Wells said. “I remember how hard we worked over the years, on the field and in the classroom, so I think Rome High School was really helpful. I feel better prepared for college because of the education I received while I was a student there. I learned about hard work and brotherhood. I think that I can take my experiences to TSU in the fall and build on that foundation.”
Wells credits his mother (Markeita Anderson), his father (Brad Wells) and his step father (Michael Anderson) with his success and he says that he could have never achieved his goals without them. And he is forever grateful to Elaina Beeman for her support in helping him to realize his dreams.
“When Tyler goes to school in the fall,” Beeman smiled, “I want to wish him the best. I want him to stay focused and keep the same humble attitude that has impressed all of his teachers. I want him to remember the challenge of getting here and know that he deserves it. But at the same time, I want him to never forget to have fun.”