JOE MACK HILL
Joe Mack Hill was born July 4, 1935 in Spearman, a small town ninety miles north of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. His parents were Vester and Ruth Hill. His sister, Jean, played oboe in the Spearman High School band, then studied violin at T.C.U. and Julliard, and played in the Dallas Symphony.
Joe Mack began his band career on a used, used, used $37.50 trumpet (he was too small to play his first choice, trombone) in the 4th grade. Mr. Smizer was his teacher (one of the most patient men who ever lived—he didn’t even get upset when Joe Mack brought him his trumpet in pieces after discovering how many different parts could be taken off a trumpet). Mr. Smizer left at the end of that year to become the band director at Stillwater, Oklahoma. Joe Mack, disappointed in losing his teacher, couldn’t understand why anyone would rather be the director in Stillwater instead of Spearman. Since these were the war years, no replacement director was available, so the school superintendent, whose musical training consisted of playing trumpet in college, directed the band. There was no band for two years after the superintendent left, and then Fred Godfrey was hired as director. The daily band routine for the next three years consisted of playing the introduction and first strain of Military Escort or Queen City, then listening to Mr. Godfrey talk until the end of the period.
Sam Watson came to Spearman for Joe Mack’s last two years of high school. Sam was the one person who most influenced his decision to become a band director. He became Joe Mack’s most trusted friend and mentor. When Joe Mack became confined to a wheelchair his senior year, Sam came to his house on a daily basis to take him to school for band class. Since the chair wouldn’t go up the steps to the band hall, Sam carried Joe Mack piggyback.
With Sam’s encouragement, Joe Mack entered West Texas State College (West Texas A&M University) in Canyon. While there he earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a Master of Arts degree, and was strongly influenced by Jerry Newman and Ted Crager. He was elected to Alpha Chi National Academic Honor Society, Who’s Who Among Students in Colleges and Universities, served as President of the band and Kappa Kappa Psi, and received the first annual Outstanding Bandsman award.
Joe Mack’s teaching career began in 1958 in Stratford. In 1966, he became the junior high band director in Dumas, where he team-taught with his great friend, Don Craig. In 1975, he was selected to be the director at Madison Junior High (now Madison Middle School) in Abilene, where he remained until his retirement in 2002 after forty-four years (eight in Stratford, nine in Dumas and twenty-seven in Abilene) in the “most fun job in the world.” In 1994, he was recognized as Madison’s Teacher of the Year.
Joe Mack’s bands have won many Sweepstakes awards and Best in Class trophies in marching and concert at the Tri-State Music Festival. He has served as clinician for All-District and All-Region bands, and as an adjucator for solo/ensemble, marching, concert and sight-reading contests and festivals in several regions in Texas. He is very proud of the many former students who have become, or are in the process of becoming, band directors.
Besides Sam Watson, Don Craig, Jerry Newman, and Ted Crager, the friends who influenced his career the most were Ray Robbins, Dub Crain, Gerald and Ralph Smith, Gary Garner, Warren Thaxton, Bill Woods, and Anthony Gibson. Joe Mack will always be grateful for the support of his school superintendent at Stratford, R. W. Standefer, Jr., to Bobby Siltman who was music supervisor for several years in Abilene, and to his principals at Madison Middle School, Carl Cheatham and Mac Hurley.
Joe Mack married Karla in 1980. A clarinet and All-State bass clarinet player (she played in his beginner and junior high bands in Dumas); she has “put-up-with,” supported, consoled, and encouraged with unbelievable understanding. She has not missed a concert or a contest in all of their married life. Karla has been an elementary school teacher for twenty-two years. They live in Abilene with their three cocker spaniels. They have recently become members of the Abilene Community Band.
Church has been a very important part of Joe Mack’s life. He has served as choir director, organist, and Sunday school teacher. He and Karla have been members of the First Christian Church in Abilene for twenty-one years where he has served as a deacon, an elder, in numerous executive positions, in the choir and the hand bell choir.
Joe Mack is grateful, humbled, and honored to be included in the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.