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TEXAS BANDMASTERS HALL OF FAME
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Joe Charles Arsuaga - Class of 2019
 

Joe Charles Arsuaga was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on October 17, 1942, to Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Arsuaga, Sr.—the youngest of six children, of whom only his ninety-one-year-old sister, Mary, remains to celebrate this occasion. He attended Corpus Christi public schools, where his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Calhoun, had too many students named Joe in her class. She decided to have all five students named Joe draw a popsicle stick from her hand, where only two sticks had a name; one was Joe, the other, Jose. The students that drew a blank stick were going to be called by their middle names, and this included Mr. Arsuaga, better known as Charles/Charlie.
He met the love of his life, Delia Ida Quintanilla, while members of the Roy Miller High School Buccaneer Band. He graduated alongside his future wife in May of 1961. After completing their studies and working a few years, they married in San Antonio, Texas, on November 28, 1968 (Thanksgiving Day). They are the proud parents of three beautiful and loving children and five adorable grandchildren: Charles Edward Arsuaga, wife Kelinda, children Christopher and Jenna; Theresa Eve Dean, husband Jeff, children Joshua and Matthew; and Annela Vira Lopez, husband Marcos, and their son Luke Edward.
Mr. Arsuaga’s musical career started at an early age (three years old) in a very unusual way. His sister, Mary, played the alto saxophone in the Buccaneer Band and loved to place her saxophone under the bed after practicing her music. God only knows how many reeds he chipped and broke on his sister’s mouthpiece.
Upon entering Northside Junior High, he joined the band program and convinced his band director, Mr. Vernon K. Elam, to switch him from tuba to alto sax. He practiced morning, noon, and night, and three months later was moved up to the performing band.
During his ninth-grade year, he was promoted to Drum Major of the band after he proved to the director that he could lead the band on the field. His peers respected him and together they convinced their director to enter their band in the Buccaneer Night Parade competition in May. At first, their director was somewhat hesitant, but he later accepted the band’s suggestion and worked the band to perfection, resulting in the band getting the coveted first-place trophy. First place had always gone to the Robert Driscoll Junior Band, under the direction of Mr. Eddie Galvan. Mr. Galvan came over to congratulate Mr. Arsuaga and jokingly said that the first-place trophy should have gone to the Robert Driscoll Junior High Band. Mr. Arsuaga didn’t know Mr. Galvan at the time and it concerned him. However, five years later Mr. Galvan became his best friend and mentor.
At Roy Miller High School, Mr. Arsuaga joined the stage band, and made the District and Region bands his junior and senior years. His band director, Mr. Carroll R. Bailey, persuaded him to try out for Drum Major his senior year, which he did. He also served as student conductor of the concert band during that year. In those days, students were allowed to compete as student conductors at UIL immediately following sight-reading. He earned a First Division medal for conducting his band through
La bohème by Puccini at the contest and later conducted it at the spring concert.
Upon graduation, Mr. Bailey came by to present Charles with a graduation gift wrapped up in a tubular cardboard container, decorated with the school’s colors, purple and gold. As Mr. Bailey presented the gift in front of Charles’s mom, he said that the small gift would someday be needed in a special function. After his director left, Charles opened the gift to find a shiny new orchestral baton. Throughout his career in the music field, he saved the baton and never used it until he was invited to direct The Heart of Texas Concert Band in May of 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, in commemoration of San Antonio’s 300
th Anniversary celebration. He conducted a beautiful and musical pasodoble, Lanjaron, by Fernando Penella.
Charles attended Del Mar College on a work scholarship, cleaning the music building’s restrooms and classrooms early each morning. During his third year, he was assigned as a theory assistant, holding night classes to help his peers needing remedial work. He also worked for the HEB grocery chain as a substitute in all of the departments of the store and played with the Eddie Galvan Orchestra, Ray Barrera Orchestra, and a few times with the Bill Hipp Orchestra. During the summer months he enjoyed playing regularly with the Corpus Christi Municipal Band on Sunday evenings.
He was fortunate to have had three excellent band directors while at Del Mar College. Each man brought their own talent and strengths to help make the band a very successful organization. Dr. Gene Braught was a showman and excelled in all performances, especially on the football field. Mr. Wayne Muller focused mostly on orchestral transcriptions. Mr. Marion Busby was a very knowledgeable concert band director and specialized in contemporary band music. Charles gained valuable experience playing under the batons of these three fine gentlemen.
Upon earning his Associate in Arts degree and Certificate in Music, he enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin under a work study program. He served two years with the music department as assistant recording supervisor and his last year as supervisor. He was blessed to have met and recorded Igor Stravinsky when he visited the campus and performed his
Firebird Suite with The University of Texas Chamber Orchestra in 1965. As Charles handed the recording to Stravinsky, they exchanged pleasantries through a translator. It was indeed a very memorable day.
After doing his student teaching under Mr. Roberto Botello at Johnston High School in Austin, he started his teaching career at Harlandale Middle School in San Antonio at the beginning of the 1966–67 school year. Encouraged by Mr. Callie W. Smith, Assistant Superintendent and a former band director himself at Tuloso-Midway in Corpus Christi, Texas, Charles presented a justification letter to the board of trustees requesting permission to compete in UIL music activities. It was unanimously approved, and thus began his successful and consistent attainment of Sweepstakes and First Divisions with his bands. In the spring of 1969, Mr. Arsuaga entered his junior high band in the TMEA State Honor Band competition for 2A high school bands. His band placed second in Area out of five 2A bands. (This was before they had the junior high division classifications.)
That same year the Harlandale ISD administration decided to go into the middle school concept, moving both the eighth and ninth grades to the high school. With twice as many students now in the high school band program, Mr. Arsuaga was assigned as an assistant to Mr. Richard Harden at the high school. In the morning, he was in charge of the Mighty Indian High School Marching Band and the campus band, comprised of mostly his students that were moved up, and in the afternoon, he taught his beginners at the middle school. With the support of the administration and the help of the Sergeant Major in charge of the ROTC program at the high school, he acquired uniforms and brand-new low brass instruments and percussion to form the ROTC Band, the first one of its kind in the city’s public schools. His ROTC Band performed for all military functions of the ROTC program at the high school and traveled together with the Mighty Indian Marching Band to all parades in the area; one marching the traditional 22 ½ high step and the other marching the 6-to-5 stride step.
In the spring of 1972, Mr. Arsuaga’s band traveled on a concert tour to Monterrey, Mexico, where they performed for huge crowds and were very well received. They also enjoyed visiting the tourist sights of the city. The following year, they competed at the Sea-A-Rama Band Festival in Galveston, Texas, where they earned First Divisions from Frederick Fennell, Clarence Sawhill, and Eddie Green.
In the spring of 1974, Mr. Arsuaga’s band, now known as the The Million Dollar Band from Indianland was selected as a performing group for the Battle of Flowers Band Festival in San Antonio. He decided to seek ideas and suggestions for his performance from his mentor, Mr. Eddie Galvan. On a trip to Corpus Christi to visit his folks, he paid a visit to Mr. Galvan, who suggested a themed performance such as “Six Flags Over Texas,” utilizing as many students as possible: the boy scouts, pep squad, dancers, etc. He even suggested to have the band play “Dixie” while a rider on a white horse, dressed in Confederate uniform, carrying a Confederate flag galloped across the length of the football field right through the heart of a Texas formation. Mr. Arsuaga liked the idea and proceeded to follow Mr. Galvan’s suggestion. This was a major undertaking with many hurdles to overcome, but at the end it was worth it for the performance was very well received by all the attendees at the band festival. The biggest obstacle was getting the white horse and rider permitted into the stadium the night of the performance. A week later, while visiting with Mr. Galvan over a cup of coffee in Corpus Christi, Mr. Arsuaga thanked him for suggesting the “Six Flags Over Texas” theme, expressing his joy that the show had been such a huge success. But, he immediately asked Mr. Galvan how he had managed with the obstacles that were inherent with such a performance, especially dealing with the white horse. Mr. Galvan responded that he had never used a white horse with a rider dressed in a Confederate uniform because it was a lot of trouble... he just thought it would be a nice creative idea worth sharing, and Mr. Arsuaga fell for it to a “T.”
In the summer of 1974, Charles moved to Robstown, Texas, to become the Director of Bands for the Robstown ISD. His bands made consecutive First Divisions in marching. The band enrollment at the high school grew from 80 members to over 160 members in three years. One of the highlights of his tenure at Robstown was a band trip to Mexico City, where the students attended the Ballet Folklórico and visited all the major sights, including an evening at the famous Plaza Garibaldi, where they were treated to a concert/dance by different mariachi groups.
Although he was offered the Director of Music position with the Brooks County ISD in Falfurrias, Texas, in 1977, he chose instead to start his master’s degree program at Corpus Christi State University, now known as Texas A&M-CC, and accepted a teaching position with the Corpus Christi ISD. He took the position as Band Director at Cunningham Junior High and first Director of The Chula Vista Fine Arts Academy. He established and organized the first fourth- through-sixth-grade bands for the academy. It was the first year of forced busing in the school district as well. He had students from four different junior highs in the city enrolled in his band at Cunningham. During the football season, you could hear the students cheering, not for the Cougars, the mascot at Cunningham, but rather for all of their home school mascots. They finally all came together after Christmas and worked together to earn a First Division at the local CCISD band contest.
Missing the action of a high school band program, he accepted the Brooks County ISD Director of Music position at the beginning of the 1978–79 school year. During his first meeting with the superintendent, he was informed that he would be taking the stage band to compete in Hawaii during the Christmas holidays. When Mr. Arsuaga asked how much money had been raised for such a trip, the superintendent raised his hand and formed a zero. For good measure, he stated that Mr. Arsuaga owed him $1,500 for the entry fee. The band focused on raising the necessary funds and spent nine days in Hawaii, two more days than the original seven, due to freezing conditions in Texas.
The Falfurrias High School Jersey Band program was already a very strong and consistent Sweepstakes winner. In the early ‘80s, Charles challenged his students to aspire to compete at the State level. His bands rose to the occasion, placing in the top five in the state’s UIL Marching and TMEA Concert Honor Band 4A and 3A competitions. His bands continued to earn UIL Sweepstakes awards and First Divisions at the American Band Classic in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at the Orange Blossom Music Festival in Orlando, Florida. With the authority and financial support given to him by the administration, he established a piano lab in the district where every fifth grader was enrolled in and taught the fundamentals of music, utilizing three of the five senses, which also benefited them academically.
In May of 1985, Mr. Arsuaga was given the honor to serve as Band Chairman for Region XIV in the Corpus Christi area. At the beginning of his tenure, and with the approval of the membership, he proceeded to meet with the 3A and below directors at various locations throughout the region to solicit their support in creating an All-District and All-Region Band for their students. His vision came to fruition when all the directors in the region voted at the TMEA Convention region meeting to approve and establish a 3A and below All-Region Band, which was implemented at the beginning of the 1986–87 school year. Five years later, this initiative started by Region XIV became a wonderful statewide experience for hundreds of students enrolled in 3A and below band programs, now known as the Association of Texas Small School Bands (ATSSB).
While working in Brook County ISD, he earned his Master of Science degree, specializing in mid-management administration. He also did his superintendent internship under Mr. Alberto Byington, Superintendent, and Mr. Adan Gonzalez, Assistant Superintendent, with the school district.
At the end of the 1985–86 school year, he left the Falfurrias High School Jersey Band to accept the principal’s position at Robstown High School, a 4A school. He moved in with his oldest sister in Corpus Christi, while his wife and children stayed behind in Falfurrias. In Robstown, he initiated the “Effective Schools” concept. After a state accreditation visit by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) early in his administrative tenure, he received a letter of commendation from TEA for identifying his students’ needs and aggressively planning towards meeting them.
The following year, Charles had the privilege to work as a middle school principal at Banquete ISD, just eight miles west of Robstown, where his youngest daughter, Annela, a first grader at the time, moved in with him on Thanksgiving Day. They lived in a school-owned house surrounded by his teachers, just yards away from his campus.
Mr. Arsuaga worked very closely with his teachers, students, and parents to improve the learning environment and student attendance. In recognition of his efforts, the board of trustees, through Mr. Otis Burroughs, Superintendent, acknowledged his hard work with a letter of commendation.
In 1988, he was offered and accepted the position as elementary principal with Premont ISD. However, when he reported for duty, he was informed that he was being assigned to the high school instead. Mr. Arsuaga served nine years as an administrator with the district, holding positions as Principal at the high school, primary school, elementary school, Interim Superintendent, and finally as Superintendent of Schools.
At the end of his ninth year with the Premont ISD, he resigned and went back to his home in Falfurrias, Texas, to finish his teaching career with Brooks County ISD as Director of Music. His bands continued to earn Sweepstakes until he retired at the end of the 1999–2000 school year, after thirty-four years of service.
Upon retiring from the education field, Mr. Arsuaga acquired his insurance and securities license and worked with teachers throughout South Texas in developing their financial
lesson plans. For the past twenty years, he has considered helping teachers plan for their retirement as his mission and helping students make music as his passion.
Mr. Arsuaga is a member of TMEA, TBA, TMAA, TASA, TASSP, and TEPSA. He has served as band clinician in over sixty school districts and continues to be an active clinician and adjudicator to this day.
Charles would like to acknowledge all of his students, parents, administrators, and communities for their support of his bands throughout his career. He would also like to acknowledge the following individuals, many of whom have passed, for the tremendous influence they’ve had on him during his career in the education field. First and foremost, Mr. Edward Galvan, who mentored him not only in music but also in administration, and who also became more like a big brother. Mr. Vernon K. Elam, his junior high band director; Mr. Carroll R. Bailey, his high school director; Dr. Gene Braught, Mr. Marion Busby, Dr. Frank Elsass, and Mr. Wayne Muller, his college directors.
Special thanks and gratitude goes to Mr. Joe Cadena and Mr. Ernesto Cortez, for being a major part of Mr. Arsuaga’s longtime career and finally coming together as the “dream team” while working with the Falfurrias High School Jersey Band.
Charles realizes this great honor could not have been attained without the love and support of his family: his wife, Delia, and his children, Charles Edward, Theresa Eve Dean, and Annela Vira Lopez.
He would also like to thank Mr. Al Cortinas for nominating him and all the members of the Phi Beta Mu Hall of Fame Committee for electing him into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.


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