Marlin Dean Killion was born July 21, 1926 in Fairfield, Nebraska. At four years of age he began taking drum lessons. The high school band director wanted to see if a child that young could learn to read rhythms. If he succeeded in teaching Dean, he would be reimbursed for the job, and if he did not succeed, no payment would be made. The band director was paid for the drum lessons. Dean joined his local city band and in 1930 they played in a massed band in Tulsa, Oklahoma under the direction of John Philip Sousa. He began playing trumpet in the 7th grade, and played solo cornet in the high school band two weeks after he joined that band. Dean's outstanding performances began in the Fairfield (Nebraska) High School where he graduated with honors in 1944. He had lettered in basketball and track, was an honorary basketball team captain and was rated superior in every county and district music contest he entered as a cornet soloist. He won a highly superior rating in the national-regional contest his sophomore year.
After two years' service in the Navy, he studied at the University of Nebraska School of Music and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1950, and his Master of Music degree in 1951. In Dean's five years at the university he soloed with the band and was also guest soloist on the choir tour. As a junior and senior he taught high school music, band, and choir in the small town of Sterling, Nebraska one day a week, and as a graduate student, was a graduate assistant to the director of the Nebraska band. He was also director of the university brass choir his last year in graduate school.
In August of 1950, Dean Killion married Pat Larsen, who was also a music major at the University of Nebraska. In August of 1951, they moved to Sidney, Nebraska where he was music supervisor and director of instrumental music, and his bands consistently won superior ratings. In 1955, he was appointed instructor of brass instruments and assistant director of bands at the University of Nebraska. In 1957, he was named director of bands and assistant professor of music at Fresno State College (California).
Dean and Pat moved to Lubbock, Texas in 1959 where Dean became Director of Bands at Texas Tech. Under his direction, the band enrollment grew from 110 members to almost 500 members, including the marching band of more than 400 members, four concert bands, and three stage bands. Students came from all over the United States to play in the band. Dean's concert band made an annual tour through Texas playing in high schools and colleges throughout the state. They played for the TMEA several times, and the band was chosen to play for the ABA Convention in Arlington, Texas in 1972. During Dean's tenure at Tech the two-week Summer Band Camp also prospered. It grew to number 1500 students which included all age levels and a well-rounded instrumentation. The Tech band was chosen by Francis McBeth to make several recordings of his own compositions as did the late Claude Smith.
At one time friends compiled some of the comments of those who witnessed Raiderland Band performances. Said a Philadelphia viewer, "anyone who contends there's a better band in the country will get an argument from me"; from California, "your show stood on its strength as an artistically produced and flawlessly performed musical presentation of the highest caliber." after praising a bowl performance, an Ohio viewer wrote the "the T.V. announcers who see many of the fine bands throughout the football season also claimed this to be the best they have seen."
Dean kept busy as a conductor, adjudicator and clinician not only in Texas but many other states as well as Canada and Mexico. In 1970, he was selected for membership in the American Bandmasters Association. In 1971, he served as President of TBA. He is a member of the College Band Directors National Association, TMEA, TBA, and Phi Beta Mu. The University of Nebraska honored Dean as an outstanding alumnus in 1974, and the Texas Bandmasters Association honored Dean as Texas Bandmaster of the Year in 1992.
Dean retired from teaching in 1985 after severe bouts of ill health. Surgery for a brain tumor in 1978, open heart surgery in 1984, again in 1989, prevented him from continuing his teaching career. He continues to be interested in music and directs the city band which he founded in 1960. The band is now an all-brass band, well suited to windy west Texas summer concerts in the park. This band is called the Westwinds Brass Band of Lubbock, Texas.