O’Pry marches to beat of his own drum


Sean O’Pry is the dream of every college student. O’Pry, a ULM alumnus, is the graduate assistant for the school of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) and the assistant band director at Neville High School.
He came to college knowing exactly what he’d do, did it successfully and has now positioned himself for a long-term success. So much success, in fact, that he co-conducted the first concert for the wind ensemble this year.
“I had always been a bit of a leader in any group that I was in, not that I pushed people around. On that day, I still remember, before a marching band festival, I was tuning and helping my section. I was like, ‘Yup, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.’”
His best friends and professors were aware of O’Pry’s potential.
“Dude’s a freak. When it comes to actual music theory, he’s super good. He’s always understood it. Him conducting is natural,” said Trey Wilson, O’Pry’s best friend and fraternity brother.
Both O’ Pry and Wilson were members of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity during their undergraduate years.
According to Scott Humes, associate professor of clarinet and saxophone, he always knew O’Pry would someday be directing ensembles.
O’Pry’s professors created ways for his potential to turn into reality.
“We have tried to give them, especially if their indicated interest is that they want to go out and teach. That’s something that Sean really wants to do. He wants to go out and teach. So we try to give them as much podium time as we can,” said Derle Long, the primary conductor of the wind ensemble and director of the school of VAPA.
O’Pry once filled in as a conductor on a whim and later got the position of choral conducting intern, created just for him.
He was a drum major for two years, which according to O’Pry, was the most fun he’s ever had.
The position was pressure-packed, though, as he was responsible for timing the band, so it wouldn’t get penalized during football games, which they never did in his time.
“You look for the white hat. Conducting with one, while watching the game, and I see the ball getting snapped, and I find the nearest cadence. I cut off the band. [The ball] snaps, and we go.”
For Sean, it was not just about success. It was about the love for both music and the environment created by other bandmates.
“Band in itself is a culture of people that’s like any other. When you enter in a band program, you see it everywhere you go. I see it in my kids at the high school. You see in the college world. You see it in the elementary school world, the middle school world. It’s a family. It’s this type of communication you start having with each other,” O’Pry said.
According to Jade Morgan, a baritone player, having O’Pry as an instructor is “an honor.”
Trumpet player Kris Balint appreciates the emotion O’Pry brings.
“He’s different in how he evokes the emotion out of the piece he’s conducting. I don’t really know how to describe the difference. It’s something that just happens as I experience it,” said Balint, a music education junior.
O’Pry’s love for music has made way for him to dedicate his life to the craft. He wants to receive a doctorate of musical arts in conducting.

“The goal would be to work a little while after this master’s and then go back for a doctorate,” said O’Pry.

Sean’s success has been almost a given for some people and for people like Dr. Long, he’s not just excited to see what Sean does now but what he does in the future.

“We expect big things from Sean wherever he winds up upon completing the degree, we know he’s going to be an effective teacher that the students are going to really like working with him. We just can’t wait to see what his career is ten years from now, five years from now.”
For Marie Looney, band director at Neville high school and ULM alumnus, what Trey and Dr. Humes said is true.

“I have been friends with Sean since my freshman year at ULM in 2014. He was always a great friend and colleague – someone I could always ask for advice or help with a class,” said Looney.