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Danny Thomas Prado - Class of 2017

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Danny Thomas Prado was born on May 21, 1950, to Merlene McLemore Prado and Dan Prado in San Augustine, Texas, as that was the closest location of a hospital, clinic or doctor at that time.  Danny went home with his mother a few days later to Hemphill, Texas, to meet his older sister Patricia Kay (Patty) who turned four years old that August.  

Danny was fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family members.  His father, Dan, was an amazing individual with an incredible sense of humor, and one of the most ethical men Danny has known.  Strong, independent, highly intelligent women have also been a part of Danny’s entire life.  He was raised by two of them, Merlene (a teacher), and his Aunt Maggie, Miss Maggie to the hundreds and hundreds of first graders that she taught from 1922 until her retirement.  Danny’s sister, Patty, the smartest person he has ever known, was a tremendous, positive intellectual influence on his development and continues to be an important guiding force today.  On a side note, Danny has never had an argument with his sister… never.  

Danny led an idyllic life as a toddler, preschooler and elementary student.  There were six acres of pine, oak and hickory trees, with gullies and creeks throughout the “Prado Place” and stock ponds on neighboring properties. For Danny, everything in Hemphill revolved around the “place.”  Danny’s younger years were spent mostly outside roaming the “place,” and his sister Patty remembers him not wearing anything but a pair of khaki shorts in the summer months and how tan he got in the summer.  

The musical journey……..beginner band for Hemphill students started in the fifth grade and was one class for everyone.  Patty was already in the band as a clarinet player and was a veteran marcher of three years so Danny was already immersed in band culture.  Danny did not join band in the fifth grade, although he has no recollection of any decision regarding whether or not to join the band. It was simply not on the radar (this is just a big mystery!)  The next year at the beginning of the sixth grade, Danny walked down the covered walk to the band hall office where the legendary Bobby Selden resided.  As Danny opened the door to the office, a huge cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out and, fighting through the cloud for vision and air, Danny presented himself in front of Mr. Selden’s desk, and asked permission to join the band and play drums.  Mr. Selden gave him that permission and his life was changed forever.  

Danny began slowly, teaching himself, patiently working through the sticking patterns in the J. Burns Moore book on a Ludwig 15” drum with calf heads set on the front porch of “the place.” He played with the drum resting on the case with his left leg under it so the snares would not be choked.

Entering the seventh grade as one of the youngest members of the Hemphill band and being very small in stature, his new band director, Mr. Jack Miles, decided that seventh-grader Danny was not “strong enough” to strap on that Ludwig 15” field drum and march with it, so he got to play cymbals in the fall.  Danny was incensed and vowed to show’ em all.  His musical manhood was damaged further by Mr. Miles’ insistence that he perform a Class III solo that spring that consisted of Danny playing on a snare drum, a wood block, a cowbell, a cymbal, and other percussion instruments.  Danny.   Was.   Mortified.  Even at that early age, Danny loved a plan and he had one: in the J. Burns Moore book was a Class I solo, The Connecticut Halftime.  Danny knew it was “on the list” as one of the “big kids” was practicing it, but decided it was too hard.  With this knowledge, the plan was hatched!   Danny boldly walked into Mr. Miles’ office and proclaimed he was not playing that sissy drum solo but was going to play The Connecticut Halftime.  Mr. Miles was a bit taken aback, but he had an out… he informed Danny that the entries had already been turned in to the superintendent’s secretary, Mrs. Howard, or as Danny knew her, Lerlene. See, Danny had known Lerlene all of his life and he convinced her to change the entry form.  Networking has always been pretty easy for Danny!  That spring, when the Hemphill band loaded a yellow dog and drove to Lamar University, Danny was armed with the always present 1S sticks, a 14” concert snare, his faithful companion, and the J. Burns Moore book to perform his solo for Mr. Don Lawler, HOF member.  Don said, “All you could see was a nose and a drum, there wasn’t much else.”  Danny’s persistence paid off with his first Class I solo superior rating, a gold UIL medal and a prized comment sheet from Don Lawler.  

Between Danny’s eighth grade year and his freshman year in high school, he attended the band camp at Stephen F. Austin State University and met a fellow percussionist from Nacogdoches High school, David Lambert.  David and Danny did not see a lot of each other in those high school years but remained good friends and grew that friendship in later college years at SFASU.  David was and has been a musical colleague and great friend since that summer of 1964.   

After Danny graduated from Hemphill High School on May 21, 1968, his parents encouraged him to take advantage of a scholarship offered to him for a six-week summer camp at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, the legendary Mid-Western Music and Art Camp.  At auditions on the first day of the camp, Danny met Norman Weinberg, a fellow percussionist from Kansas City, Kansas.  Danny describes Norman Weinberg as one of the finest musicians and greatest human beings he has ever known.  Norm is retiring from the University of Arizona as the Head of Percussion and moving very soon to west Ft. Worth.  Norm and Danny are looking forward to growing old together.  They have remained extremely close friends, but have only seen each other three times since 1968.

In September of 1968, Danny entered Stephen F. Austin State University and began percussion/conducting studies with the late Mel Montgomery, HOF member, and considers Mr. Montgomery, and the late Darrell Holt, SFASU Jazz Studies Director, as his two greatest influences during his college years.

After graduation in 1972, Danny was fortunate to be hired for his first teaching job in Jacksonville, Texas, where he worked with and became close friends with current HOF member, Val Rose.  Val was instrumental in Danny’s growth as he allowed him to take over many responsibilities of teaching and never hovered or intervened but was always an instant resource.  After a year in Jacksonville, Danny had an opportunity take a job in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford School District in Tarrant County.  He considers his eighteen years in that school district as one of the most influential growth periods of his professional life.  He was fortunate to work with HOF members, Supervisor Jerry Longwell, , Tommy Neugent, , Roger Winslow, Norman White and Joe Gunn.  Danny considers Joe Gunn one of the most pedagogically sound and influential people in his life.  Danny was the band director at Euless Junior High for five years and Bedford Junior High for thirteen years.  He was then offered the opportunity to teach in the neighboring school district, Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District.  This district was going through massive growth and renewal and Danny was fortunate to work once again with the legendary Jolette Wine, another strong, independent intellectual woman, who remains one of his closest advisers and colleagues today.

During the Grapevine years, Danny worked with several other staff members, notably Steve Andre who was instrumental in the growth and success of the Grapevine High School band.  Danny continued his work in Grapevine-Colleyville until his retirement in May, 2005.

In 2013, Danny was presented the Outstanding Music Alumnus Award by Stephen F. Austin University’s School of Music. Danny officially retired in 2005 but is still an active consultant, clinician, and free-lance musician.  He is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, and past president of Alpha Chapter of the International Bandmasters’ Fraternity, Phi Beta Mu.

In the middle of all this teaching, performing, traveling, Danny met a person that was to become his biggest influence, Kathy Jordan, daughter of the late Phi Beta Mu member, Bob Jordan.  With all of the female role models in Danny’s life, it is no surprise that Danny found as his mate a strong, independent, highly intelligent female as his life-long partner.  Kathy and Danny were married in June 1985 and raised two children: Michael, a US Army Combat Veteran, presently in law enforcement in Anson, Texas, and Danielle, an attorney living in Glasgow, Scotland, with her husband, Kris.  Danny credits Kathy, Michael, and Danielle for allowing him to pursue a career that requires a lot of long hours and commitment.  
After retirement, Danny immersed himself in practicing and free-lancing on his drum set and timpani and continues with that activity today.  One Friday last October, Danny had finished a morning consultation, practiced for his weekly lesson and was tidying flies in his study when a phone call from Dr. Robin Ryan, the superintendent of Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, coerced him back into the education field.  From October 2016 to May 2017 Danny served as the GCISD Interim Fine Arts Director covering all music, art, secondary theater and secondary dance in eleven elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools.  Danny considers the relationships he established with the fine arts faculty and especially his colleagues in the upper administration some of the strongest bonds he has established in his career.

Now in 2017, his induction into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame is the highlight of his career.  Danny has not listed many accomplishments or awards, as he does not consider these to be an important part of either his professional or his personal life. Danny considers the relationships and connections he has made with all his former students and the hundreds of colleagues and friends that have influenced him to be the most profound and permanent gift of his journey with music. Danny considers this Hall of Fame selection as the highest honor of his life.

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