Director of Bands and Percussion Specialist
Kevin Ownby is the Director of Bands and Percussion Specialist at Oak Mountain High School. Prior to becoming Director of Bands in 2012, he was the Associate Director of Bands and Percussion Specialist for 8 years. His responsibilities as Director of Bands include design and instruction of the marching band show, as well as conducting the Wind Ensemble, Jazz A, and Percussion Ensemble. All of these groups have consistently received superior ratings at various contests and festivals. In the fall of 2007, the Percussion Ensemble performed a showcase concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. In 2016, the Oak Mountain Wind Ensemble was selected as a “Featured Ensemble” at the Music for All National Band Festival and will be performing at the Alabama Music Educators Association Conference in January 2017.
Mr. Ownby is a graduate of Austin High School in Decatur, AL. He graduated from Samford University with a Bachelors degree in Music Education and from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Masters degree in Percussion Performance. Mr. Ownby is a member of the ABA, NAfME, and the Percussive Arts Society. He has also served as Principal Timpanist for the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra and Percussionist for Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mr. Ownby began his mentorship under Jim Duren, founding director of Oak Mountain High School Bands, in 1997 when he provided percussion instruction for the Pelham High School Marching Band. He is blessed to have Mr. Duren in his life as a mentor and close friend.
Mr. Ownby and his wife Laura met in middle school band. They have four daughters: Kayla Ellen, twins Leigha Claire and Kara Elise, and Livia Beckett. They are active members of Hunter Street Baptist Church and feel as though God has called their family to the mission and ministry of education.
Fine Arts Department Chair; Associate Director of Bands
Dr. Travis Bender is the Fine Arts Department Chair and Associate Director of Bands at Oak Mountain High School. He currently serves as the ABA District IV Vice Chairman. In 2019, Dr. Bender was named Oak Mountain's "Teacher of the Year." Prior to joining the OMHS faculty, he served as Director of Bands at Liberty Park Middle School, where he was named “Teacher of the Year” in 2011. His duties at OMHS include teaching the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band B, Marching Band, Chamber Music, and Band Techniques. Dr. Bender has written the marching band drill and co-arranged the music for Oak Mountain's "Spirit of Cahaba" Marching Band since 2014.
Dr. Bender is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in music education. While attending UA, he served as a drum major of the “Million Dollar Band” and as conductor of The Tuscaloosa Winds, a community band for the western Alabama region. In addition to his conducting capacities, Dr. Bender also performed extensively as the pianist for the Alabama Wind Ensemble for six years and as trombonist for the Symphonic Band and various pep bands. His professional affiliations include NAfME, ABA, NBA, and the music honorary, Pi Kappa Lambda.
Under his leadership, Dr. Bender’s bands have consistently received superior ratings at contests and festivals. His bands have been invited to perform at the Alabama Music Educators Association Conference in 2012 and 2019. He has also conducted ensembles at the CBDNA Southern Conference (2014), Carnegie Hall (2015), and the Music For All National Band Festival (2016). Dr. Bender's bands have received first place awards at the Dixie Classic Grand National Adjudicators Festival (2013), the Smoky Mountain Music Festival (2019), and Festival Disney (2012 and 2017). He has coordinated the Oak Mountain "Spirit of Cahaba" Marching Band performances in the National Cherry Blossom Parade (2018) as well as parades at Walt Disney World's EPCOT (2017) and Magic Kingdom (2020).
In addition to music instruction, Dr. Bender has a strong interest in student and teacher leadership. He holds a second Masters degree, an Educational Specialist degree, and a doctorate of education in Educational Leadership from Samford University.
Besides teaching, Dr. Bender is also interested in technology, home improvement projects, and pinball machines. He currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, Krista, a fifth grade teacher at Oak Mountain Intermediate School. They have one precious daughter, Madison, a lovable Sheltie named Haley, and a lazy cat named Prince.
Director of Bands Emeritus
Mr. Jim Duren was the Director of Bands at Oak Mountain High School from its opening in the fall of 1999 through the end of the 2011-2012 school year. He is thrilled to be returning to the Oak Mountain Band staff for the 2015-2016 school year.
Prior to coming to Oak Mountain, Mr. Duren was Director of Bands at Mountain Brook Jr. High (1973-1978), Mountain Brook High School (1978-1987) and then Pelham High School (1987 – 1999).
During his 39 year career, Mr. Duren’s bands have performed throughout the southeastern and midwestern united states, The Bahamas, Toronto Canada and two performances at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Mr. Duren is a graduate of Gordo High School in Pickens County. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. While at the University, he was a member and student conductor of the “Million Dollar Band,” Principal Trombonist in the Symphonic Band, Bass Trombonist with the Brass Ensemble, Trombone Choir, University Symphony Orchestra, and the Jazz Ensemble.
Mr. Duren is a member of the Alabama Music Educators Hall of Fame, Alabama Bandmasters Association (ABA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), National Band Association, and Phi Beta Mu. In 1996 he was awarded the “John Philip Sousa Legion of Honor Award.” In 1999 he was named “Honorary Conductor” of the University of Alabama Wind Ensemble and in 2011 was awarded the “Outstanding Band Director or the Year” award for the state of Alabama by the Rho chapter of Phi Beta Mu Band Director’s fraternity as well as being named “Outstanding Alumni” at the University of Alabama in 2011. He is a 2015 inductee into the Alabama Music Educators Hall of Fame.
Director of Middle School Bands
Heather Holmes joined the Oak Mountain Middle School staff in 2006 as assistant band and choir director. In 2012, Mrs. Holmes was appointed Director of Bands for Oak Mountain Middle School. Mrs. Holmes teaches the Advanced Band, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, and Beginning Band. Since coming to OMMS, the band program has grown to over 300 students. Prior to OMMS, Mrs. Holmes taught at her alma mater, Brooks High School, for 5 years, where she was responsible for Beginner Band, Concert Band, Marching Band, and Jazz Band.
She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education from the University of Alabama in 2001. While at Alabama, Mrs. Holmes played trombone in the Million Dollar Band and the Alabama Wind Ensemble. She served on the Million Dollar Band “Band Staff” for two years and was trombone section leader her senior year.
Her bands have consistently been recognized for superior ratings at the state and national level. In 2015, the OMMS Advanced Band was invited to perform as a guest ensemble at the University of Alabama Middle School Honor Band. The Advanced Band was also invited to perform at the Alabama Music Educators Annual In-Service conference in 2017.
Her professional affiliations include Alabama Music Educators Association, Alabama Bandmasters Association, NAfME, and Sigma Alpha Iota. She also serves as Secretary for the Shelby County Band Directors Association.
Aside from teaching at OMMS, Mrs. Holmes sings with the Praise Team and the Celebration Choir at First Baptist Church in Pelham. She resides in Birmingham with her husband Jason and children, Ella and William.
Assistant Director of Middle School Bands & Choirs
Chanse Nelson has been working with the Oak Mountain Bands since 2014. He began his work with the Spirit of Cahaba Marching Band and then was brought on as the percussion specialist at Oak Mountain Middle School in 2016. In addition to the OMHS and OMMS, Mr. Nelson has served as the percussion specialist at Thompson Middle School, Leeds Middle School, and Helena High School. He also holds a private studio of approximately 20 students who compete at the highest levels in the state.
Mr. Nelson received his Bachelor of Music Degree in Percussion Performance and is currently in the final stages of completing his Master of Music Education Degree, both from Samford University. While studying at Samford he held the principal chairs in both the Samford University Wind Ensemble and Samford Orchestra. He also participated with the Samford University Marching Band for 2 years where he held the position of Drum Captain.
When not teaching Mr. Nelson can often be found gigging in the greater Birmingham area. He has played for artists such as the Celtic Women, The Temptations, Bo Bice, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Yolanda Adams. He also often plays percussion and bass guitar at Meadowbrook Baptist Church.
Mr. Nelson is a member of NAfME, the Percussive Arts Society, and Pi Kappa Lambda.