W. T. “Bill” Carrico was born on January 1, 1921, in Dallas, Texas, to a family in which music was a way of life. His father, William L. Carrico, was a professional musician and band leader who performed as a member of the Chicago, St. Louis, Houston and Dallas symphonies during his lengthy career.
During the winter months, the senior Carrico organized and conducted his own orchestras to perform for the cultural Chautauqua events popular at the time in the luxury resorts of southern Florida. Bill’s mother, Lefa H. Carrico, grew up performing with her family in a traveling show which reached several mid-western states. After she married William, she taught piano and voice in the various towns where the family settled.
Bill’s older brother, Dr. John Carrico (1918-1978) directed university bands in Texas and Nevada until his death. He was an internationally known jazz movement authority who founded the Reno International Jazz Festival. In 1975, while attending the Nancy Jazz Festival in France, John became the first American ever elected to the board of directors for the 26-nation International Jazz Federation.
Under the tutelage of his father, Bill began study of the cornet at the age of 6 and had performed in numerous local recitals by age 9. He started his conducting career early also. When Bill was 11, his father turned over his conductor’s baton to Bill for performances of two Dallas parochial school bands, groups the elder Carrico instructed.
While still in high school, Bill played professionally with two Rio Grande Valley area adult bands. He graduated from Mercedes High School in 1938. Bill was active in several professional dance bands in the Alpine area while pursuing his degree at Sul Ross State University and also performed regularly as the featured Sul Ross cornet soloist. He earned his Bachelor’s degree as a music major in 1941.
Following graduation, Bill directed high school bands in Eldorado, Laredo, Ft. Stockton and Alpine. In 1949, he earned his Master of Arts degree in Music at Sul Ross.
Bill married Reba Burleson (1922-1982) of Alpine in 1953. They were blessed with four children: Craig (1955) of Ft. Worth; Brett (1957) of Lubbock; Mary Lisa (1959) of Norwalk, Ohio; and Lance (1961) of San Angelo. At present, the grandchildren total is eleven and counting.
In the fall of 1953, Bill accepted the position of high school band director in Pecos, Texas, where he remained for 33 years to build an outstanding band program. He also served for 31 years as high school choral director. In 1954, he organized the first stage band in the Pecos system and directed it for 26 years.
Among the special achievements of the Pecos High Band are Outstanding Concert Band titles from the Tri-State Festival in Enid, Oklahoma (twice); the Amarillo Festival; the Buccaneer Festival, and Outstanding Marching Band titles from the Tri-State Festival (3 times) and the Six Flags Festival. Both the band and choir were awarded numerous Sweepstakes trophies, as well as First Division honors.
Among Bill’s professional memberships are Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, Phi Beta Mu and American Federation of Musicians. In addition, Bill served on the University Interscholastic League State Music Advisory Committee. He also served as a state board member for TMEA and was Region Chairman.
During his homesteading in Pecos, Bill found time to organize his own dance band for engagements in that section of far West Texas. The group, Bill Carrico and His Sentimental Gentlemen, was active until 1972. (They couldn’t cut that rock and roll!)
In 1967, a shortage of available band directors left Pecos with an opening for a junior high director. Bill stepped in to take over the program, along with his own high school duties, and the band prospered. For the first time ever, the junior high band was awarded the coveted Sweepstakes trophy.
Bill introduced several popular innovations to entertain fans of the Pecos Marching Band. Patriotic songs sung by the entire band on the football field with handheld megaphones were received enthusiastically by the fans. A touch of comedy added once in a while brought smiles to the crowd, and all enjoyed the many drills and the varied musical selections the students performed.
In 1982, following the death of his wife, Bill retired from teaching after 40 years of school service. He now lives in San Angelo, where all four of the Carrico children attended Angelo State University. Occasionally, Bill performs with various jazz groups, usually playing valve trombone. For many years, he was asked to adjudicate a number of band and choral competitions in Texas and New Mexico.
Bill has said that, in addition to teaching music skills, he always tried to instill in his students responsibility, good citizenship, discipline and an understanding of the rewards possible through strong group desire and effort. Bill says, “To be able, even to a small degree, to offer guidance to literally thousands of young people toward their future happiness and well-being is an awesome undertaking, It’s been a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Being paid something approaching a living wage was an added bonus. It was FUN!”
Bill’s students have shown their appreciation for his lessons in both music and life skills. A group of former students established the Bill Carrico Scholarship Fund a few years ago. Now each year, a graduating senior from Pecos High School is given a college scholarship, and all students are reminded of the lessons Bill Carrico spent 40 years teaching.