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TEXAS BANDMASTERS HALL OF FAME
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Billy Harrell - Class of 2004
 

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Billy Arvil Harrell was born in Austin, Texas on March 14, 1938 to Audry Wiley (Billie) and Maxine Ponder Harrell. He is the oldest of five boys and a direct descendent of Austin's first settler, Jacob Harrell. His parents, both amateur musicians, encouraged him, as well as all of his brothers, in music at an early age. At the age of nine, he began taking piano from Mrs. Childress, a family friend, for 50 cents per lesson. This only lasted a year and then it was time for one of the most popular instruments of the time, the accordion. He studied the accordion off and on through high school. However, the turning point in Bill's musical career was when he had the opportunity to enroll in the first sixth grade beginner band classes in the Austin ISD and have Mr. C. A. (Bud) Matthews as his teacher. He started on a Pan American trombone that his parents purchased for $112.50 from J. R. Reed Music in Austin.

Bill then went to Allan Jr. HS where his band director was Mr. Weldon (Dutch) Scheel and was in the first band at McCallum HS in Austin. His director there was Dr. Frank Phillips. During this time, he participated in both the band and orchestra where he received many awards for Solo-Ensemble as well as being named a member of the All-State Orchestra for two years. He had the opportunity to play in the Austin All-City Orchestra under Mr. Weldon Covington. Around the ninth grade, Bill decided that he wanted to be a band director and began working to accomplish this goal.

In 1956, he entered the University of Texas. After six weeks, lacking the necessary funds to stay in school, he decided to enter the Air Force as a bandsman. The Air Force enabled him to perform with many good players as well as take college courses on his off-duty time. He was fortunate to spend most of his time at Randolph Air Force Base where he worked under Lt. Col. Sam Kurtz. He served as Librarian for the band. There were many opportunities for playing and reading much literature as the band was the reading band for all of the new music sessions for three days at TBA in 1958 and 1959

After leaving the Air Force in 1960, Bill again pursued his goal of becoming a band director. He entered the University of Texas and played in the Longhorn Band under Vincent R. DiNino. While in college he worked for the State Treasury Department and played with the Symphony Orchestra.

Finally in the fall of 1964, Bill reached his goal by becoming a band director at Blanco High School. The band won their class at the University of Texas Band Day and another band festival that year. By the second year, the band began receiving awards at the UIL Contest as well as being named the Outstanding Band in their class at the Six Flags Festival.

Bill's five years at Blanco were highlighted by the band receiving its first two UIL Sweepstakes awards, his earning of his Masters Degree from what is now Texas State University (1967), and his relationship with Tom Rhodes, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. In 1968, he married the former Beverly Bergner of Fredericksburg, whom he met at the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville, where both worked during the summer.

In 1969, Bill and Beverly moved to Hondo where Bill became director of the Hondo Owl Band. The Hondo Band was unusual in that it was 90% girls. During Bill's 7 years in Hondo, the high school band received 6 UIL Sweepstakes Awards and was fifth in TMEA Honor Band competition. The middle school band received first divisions in both concert and sight reading all seven years. Bill taught 350 students a day his final year in Hondo.

In 1976, Bill began what he refers to as his touring years. In 1976-77, he went to New Braunfels HS where the band received the first UIL Sweepstakes in several years. In 1977-79, he went to Cuero HS. The band came from a fourth division band to a second division band. In 1980-81, he went to Randolph HS. The band received the UIL Sweepstakes Award as well as placing first at the Westlake Marching Contest in Class 3A over 16 other bands.

Bill decided to get rich by wearing a three piece suit and joining the ranks of fund-raising. After one semester, he found out that this was not his niche. One day while riding with his manager, someone asked the manager if he knew of any band jobs. The manager replied that Krueger MS in the North East ISD in San Antonio was open. The next day Bill went to see Al Sturchio and got the job.

It had been 12 years since the Krueger band had received a first division. Bill's 13 years there produced first division ratings every year in concert and 12 in sight reading. The band was named Region Honor band several times and competed at the State level several times. The Jazz Band was very successful. In 1986, Bill was named the North East ISD Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Bill retired from active teaching in 1993 but has stayed active in music. In 1993 and 1994 he was the organizer and director of the Texas Lions All-State Band. This group performed at Lions International Conventions in Minneapolis and Phoenix. He is active as a clinician and adjudicator, has been a Region Executive-Secretary for 25 years, a member of the San Antonio Municipal Band for the past five years, and a member of the Phi Beta Mu Reading Band since its beginning. He plays in the Bell Choir and sings in the Sanctuary Choir at the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church.

Bill has been a member of Phi Beta Mu since 1973 and is a member of many other professional organizations including: TMEA State Board, TMAA (Charter member), ASBDA, NBA, TBA, Kappa Kappa Psi, Who's Who Among America's Teachers, and Who's Who in the South and Southwest. He has served as President of the Hondo Lion's Club and the Fredericksburg Texas Exes.

Bill is proud of the many accomplishments of the groups that he directed. He is even more proud of the students that he taught over the years and their successes in their chosen professions. Bill credits much of his success to his wife, Beverly, who was always by his side when he was teaching and only missed one performance of his groups through the years. He is appreciative of the many colleagues who have given support and help throughout the years and is humbled to be chosen as a member of the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.


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