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Bob Brandenberger - Class of 2018

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“Mr. Brandenberger has a rare talent – a genuine interest in people.  The things he taught me about dedication, responsibility and discipline have been invaluable.” Written by a former SMU Mustang bandsman.

Today we are proud to honor Bob Brandenberger, a Texas Bandmasters Association past-president who enjoyed thirty-one prestigious years as a music educator at the junior high, high school and college levels. Along the way Bob served as adjudicator, clinician and All Region Band conductor. Bob’s professional affiliations included Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, and Phi Beta Mu. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University.

Bob was born June 16, 1948 in Fredericksburg, Texas, to Patsy and Silas Brandenberger, Jr.  His mother, Patsy, had a degree in education and Silas, his father, was attending Texas A&M before enlisting in the army during World War II.  After the war, Silas returned to Mason where he and Patsy worked the family cattle and goat ranch, which Bob helped run when he wasn’t in school. It is here where he developed his love for the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. His younger siblings include Frank, who is deceased, Ann, and Andy. Bob’s father served on the school board and the family was active in the United Methodist Church.  Quite importantly, both Silas and Patsy were active, supportive band parents from the first time Bob picked up his first instrument, the alto saxophone, in sixth grade. He played throughout the junior high and high school years. Bob was first chair in symphonic band, served as a section leader and was selected to the All-Area band.  In addition, he played Little League baseball, junior high football, and as a senior Bob participated in the One-Act Play,
The Devil and Daniel Webster, that won State UIL.

But it was his love of music that took him to Southern Methodist University on a four-year scholarship, and it was his high school band director that encouraged him to audition for Irving Dreibrodt.  Thus began Bob’s association with the SMU Mustang Band.  He quickly became a leader, serving as alto saxophone section and squad leader and freshman whip. Bob received the outstanding freshman, outstanding loyalty and spirit, and outstanding upperclassman awards while attending SMU. Here he met his future bride, Shelly. They were married December 27, 1970.

Bob’s first director’s job was at Nimitz High School in 1970, where he directed the concert and stage bands for two years while working with high school director Jim Jackson. It is here where he met the infamous Eddie Galvan. Bob selected Jesu, The Joy of Man’s Desiring as his first UIL contest piece. It did not appear too challenging for his band, with the slow tempo. Enter Eddie Galvan, one of the UIL judges. After Bob’s performance, Jim Jackson introduced Bob to Eddie. Eddie looked curiously at Bob and asked, “Aren’t you the director who played Jesu, The Joy of Man’s Desiring? To which Bob replied proudly, “Yes.” Eddie’s classic response was “How could you do that to Jesus, man?”

In 1972 Bob headed east to the Richardson School District, specifically the Lake Highlands area.  His first position in the district was Director of Bands at Forest Meadow Junior High. The band earned “Outstanding Band” at the 1972 and 1973 Ennis Band Festivals. In 1974, the Forest Meadow band was selected as the Triple C Honor Band and was invited to perform at the 1975 TMEA Convention. Recently, one of his former junior high band students wrote in a letter to Bob, “ I wanted to express my enduring thanks for your influence on me as a music educator. Your system was the first to put me in a one-on-one relationship for saxophone instruction, and I took off.”

When Bob moved to the assistant director position at Lake Highlands High School to work with director Eddie Green, Bob also served as supervisor of the marching band. Eddie gave Bob sage advice before his first marching band drill practice. “Bob-O, these are very bright kids so don’t screw it up”. As luck would have it, Bob had the band crashing into one another, but it did not happen a second time. The Lake Highlands band introduced the corps style marching to football half time shows in Richardson. With the combined talents of directors and private teachers including drum line instructor, Bob Johnson, and the color guard instructor, Joann Johnson, Lake Highlands won Outstanding Band in both the 1975 and 1976 Texas State Fair Parade of Champions.

It was through his experiences in the Lake Highlands area with Eddie Green, other directors, and private teachers that Bob felt he was able to refine his teaching techniques. As an assistant director, he was honored to conduct two numbers, Exposition and Hamlet Suite, at the1975 Midwest National Band and Orchestra Clinic. In 1977, Bob became director of the Lake Highlands Wildcat Band where he had one of his greatest musical experiences. His symphonic musical selections for that year’s competitions were Fillmore’s Rolling Thunder, Persichetti’s Divertimento for Band and Gustav Mahler’s Finale from Symphony No 7 transcribed and arranged for band by the talented Malcom Helm. The band earned sweepstakes at UIL and Outstanding Band at the Buccaneer Days Music Festival. One of the judge’s comments summed it up best. “What a super performance by this great band. Hats off to you and your outstanding director and special accolades to Mr. Helm for his excellent transcription.” Recently, a former student wrote about his band experience, “I spent the better part of yesterday listening to the “Mahler” and “Rolling Thunder.’’ So many warm memories of those days….such pride in what was accomplished…. I hope you are very proud not only of the music you caused us to create, but also of the leadership you demonstrated and the uplifting force you were in so many teen lives”.

In the summer of 1977, Bob received an unexpected phone call from Dr. Irving Dreibrodt, director of the SMU Mustang Band. Dr, Dreibrodt, or Coach, as he was affectionately known by his band students, offered Bob the assistant director position and then the directorship once he retired. This was a difficult decision. Bob was thoroughly enjoying his time and work with the Lake Highlands students, staff, and parents. However, the Mustang Band also meant a great deal to Bob while he was in college and his experiences contributed to his desire to become a band director. It was at SMU that Bob spent the next seventeen years of his teaching career. The music style had not changed since his college days. The talented Jack Rohr and Tommy Tucker transcribed and arranged jazz-style tunes from the Great American Songbook, the “American Standards.” The SMU band became an extension of the Brandenberger family. Many attended yearly band parties at Bob and Shelly’s home, where Bob would grill burgers and band members would linger into the night trading memories and stories.

There were several “firsts” during Bob’s years at SMU including playing “Thanks for the Memories” for Bob Hope when he performed on the SMU campus, marching at Japan’s Mirage Bowl, and performing at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii. Then there were early morning performances. The band, dressed in one of their many uniforms, the long pin-striped night shirt and cap, welcomed the football team home from an away game with a rousing fight song at 3:00 a.m. Bob and his staff turned challenges into opportunities when there was a fall without football (i.e, no marching performances). Bob and his staff became very creative. Each year during homecoming, the band held a Pigskin Revue featuring the band and college student performers. During the fall without football, the band took the revue on the road. They played concerts for alums in Houston and San Antonio, and Texas A&M invited the Mustang Band to perform at Kyle Field. In 1989 the band won the title, The Best College Band in Texas.

During his tenure with the Mustang Band, Bob continued building the Mustang Band’s esprit de corps and keeping meaningful traditions. He received the prestigious Diamond M Club Award for outstanding service to SMU. The award read: Bob Brandenberger who has touched the lives of us all with his commitment to excellence, his compassion, and his love for Southern Methodist University and the Mustang Band. Like Barcus, Goodrich, and Dreibrodt before him, he has conducted himself in the best Mustang Band tradition – fiercely loyal to his students and determined to make the Mustang Band the best it could possibly be.

In 1995 Bob returned to the public schools. He became the director at Liberty Junior High School in the Richardson ISD where coincidentally his son, BJ, was attending and was a percussionist in the band. Bob continued to inspire and motivate his students and the band consistently produced outstanding contest performances. Most memorable was the performance at Bass Hall where the band received the Outstanding Band award. Bob remained at Liberty until his retirement from teaching in 1998.  

Music remains a part of retirement life. Bob returned to the SMU Hilltop 10 years ago as assistant director to Stan Shipman who helped establish the SMU Alumni Band. This alumni group plays for the fans on the SMU boulevard prior to each home football game as well as makes guest appearances at wedding receptions and special SMU events. Bob and Shelly contributed monies toward the new SMU Mustang band hall, continue to contribute to the Diamond M Club that provides band scholarships, and continue contributions to the Malcolm Helm Memorial Endowed Scholarship.  Most evenings, you can find Bob listening to music from his classical musical collection.

Family has always been Bob’s greatest treasure, especially his five adorable grandchildren. He and Shelly have been married for forty-eight years and have two married children, Brynne Ann Komonchak and BJ Brandenberger who now have families of their own. Brynne and her husband Andy have two children, Andy III and Lucy. BJ and his wife Elisha have three children, Hudson, and twins Harper and Jackson. When Bob is not spending time with family, you can find him fishing, making trips to Mason to check on the cattle, working with mesquite wood from the ranch, or relaxing at his and Shelly’s home at
Pecan Plantation in Granbury, Texas.

Bob is honored to become a member of the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. He contributes the success of his bands to the combined efforts and talents of colleagues, mentors, students, and the support of the parents and administrators.
In closing, a colleague wrote, ”One of the things I have been praying for is that I will rediscover the joy of teaching, or that I will find something else to do for a living. I really want to learn to do this job right and well. It’s great to have a master right here to watch and learn from.  Going to your rehearsals has been among the highlights of my career. I really felt the old joy again, and it’s great!  The Lord has used you, Bob, to answer that prayer.”

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