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Michael Brashear - Class of 2019

Mike was hooked on band from the time the Sweetwater High School Band came to play for his elementary school. Kenneth Michael Brashear was born June 16, 1953, in Sweetwater, Texas, but by the time he was in junior high, Mike’s family had moved to Dublin, to run a dairy. Boys in Dublin played football—not band—so it was not until the beginning of eighth grade that Mike joined the band. Even though he got a late start in band, Mike had already begun his musical training by taking piano lessons from his mother, who was the Baptist church pianist. He thought he wanted to play trumpet, but when his young band director, Carter Cook, a Stephen F. Austin State University graduate and a trombone player himself, insisted the band needed more trombones and that Mike’s embouchure was more suited to trombone than trumpet, the decision was made. Carter gave him a silver Olds F-attachment trombone, a beginner book, and a few lessons. Mike started off last chair in the band, but within six weeks he had advanced to the top of the section. Quickly, Mike fell in love with band, affirming his decision to quit football. One of the many things Mike remembers from his first band director was the plaque on the wall behind his podium that read, “The Service You Give is the Rent You Pay for the Space You Occupy.” That philosophy of service has remained with him throughout his career.
Thanks to Carter Cook, who encouraged his junior high school students to join the marching band in high school, Mike couldn’t wait for ninth-grade band. The uniforms were cool, but the best thing was being able to drive to the one-night-a-week extra rehearsal. Mike was devastated when Carter Cook announced he was leaving Dublin for Breckenridge. As is the case in many rural Texas towns, band directors came and went, and while he was in high school, Mike had three different band directors. During this time, a good UIL rating for the Dublin Band was a second division. However, Mike was able to observe several top UIL bands in the region at contest. Performances by the Brady High School Band under TBA Past President and Hall of Fame member James Mallow and Stephenville High School under Jim Harwell were an inspiration to him. Mike worked hard preparing for auditions for All-District and All-Region bands and played in honor groups under the batons of W. Francis McBeth and Dr. Gary Garner. During this time, Dr. Curtis Owen (director at Tarleton State University) did clinics for the Dublin Band. He was impressed with Mike and began giving him private trombone lessons. Payment for these lessons was a gallon of fresh milk from the Brashear dairy farm!
Mike was encouraged to attend the summer band camps at Tarleton, where he played first-chair trombone under world-renowned conductor Clarence Sawhill from UCLA. Mike remembers being pulled aside by Dr. Sawhill during a break. He said, “Mike, at each of these camps I find a student who I can hang my hat on. You are that student for this band. Would you like to conduct the band? Then meet me here at lunch and I’ll give you your first conducting lesson.” From that moment on, Mike, as a sophomore in high school, never wanted to be anything else but a Texas Band Director. Mike continued to excel in all his high school endeavors, including FFA, FTA, judging ag contests, editor of the school yearbook, class officer, UIL speed typing, and having a lead role in his high school junior and senior plays. Mike was a serious student, maintaining all A’s, and was considered mature enough by the administration to drive a school bus route during his senior year! Mike graduated valedictorian of his class in 1971.
Mike enrolled at hometown Tarleton State University with the intention of getting his teaching certificate as fast as possible so he could be a band director. He quickly figured out there was a lot to learn before becoming a band director. He buckled down with theory, history, serious piano and trombone lessons, and performed with all the groups at TSU, including band, jazz band, and choir. Dennis Guilliame (jazz band), Herbert Teat (choir) and Jeanette Kavanaugh (voice and music ed) challenged Mike to expand his horizons and contributed to his musicianship with encouragement and inspiring experiences. Band director Curtis Owen, who was Mike’s first mentor, brought in successful band directors such as Howard Dunn for round-table discussions with those who were planning on becoming teachers. Mike attended TMEA conventions and remembers listening to amazing concerts by Lake Highlands Junior High Band conducted by Carroll Cantrell performing Husa’s
Music for Prague 1968, and the following year the Lake Highlands High School Band under the direction of Hall of Fame member Eddie Green. He had never heard anything like this from young bands and promised himself that he would somehow get to learn from these directors who produced such outstanding bands. The seed was planted for Mike’s desire to become a band director in Richardson ISD someday.
In the spring of 1971, Mike began his student teaching with Jim Harwell at Stephenville High School. His student teaching experience was positive and typical of most until a couple of weeks before UIL contest when Jim had a major heart attack. Jim asked Mike to finish preparing his band and take them to UIL contest. Mike’s not sure who was more nervous at contest—him conducting the band, or Jim listening from the audience. Talk about baptism by fire!
Mike decided to attend the University of North Texas to pursue a master’s degree. He was chosen to be a graduate assistant for the newly named Director of Bands, Dr. Robert A. Winslow. His duties included conducting the campus band and assisting with the marching band. In the spring of 1976, Dr. Winslow encouraged Mike to apply for the band director job at a brand-new junior high in Irving ISD, working with Hall of Fame member Lee South. After meeting Lee and hearing his band at contest, Mike was convinced he wanted to work in the Irving cluster. He applied for the job, completed the interview process, but was devastated when he received a rejection letter stating that the principal wanted an experienced director. Lee encouraged Mike to have more recommendation letters sent and invited him back to rehearse the Crockett Junior High band on the Holst
Suite in E-flat in front of the principal and band directors. Mike rushed to the UNT library, checked out the score and recording, and crammed. On the day of the “audition,” after a quick introduction and warm-up, Mike dove into the music and rehearsed the students for a solid hour. After getting the job, Mike asked Lee why he was selected. “You kept the kids engaged for the full hour and gave the band lots of information. The experienced candidate only worked for forty-five minutes, then ran out of anything to say and started telling jokes.” Thus began three of the most important years of Mike’s band directing career.
Mike is forever grateful for Lee South’s mentorship and the opportunity to work with Hall of Fame member Glen Oliver (IHS assistant) and Gary Wilkes (Crockett Junior High director). Mike developed lifelong friendships with Matthew McInturf, Hall of Fame member Marion West, and Brian Merrill—all beginning middle school band directors in Irving. Starting with forty kids and the B-flat scale, Mike’s first band went on to win a Sweepstakes at UIL. The following two years produced more good bands and the program continued to grow. However, starting beginners in the seventh grade and having only one eighth-grade concert band was not the ideal situation, and at the end of three years, Mike moved to Spring Branch ISD as an assistant director to Randy Fitch at Stratford High School. This was a brand new challenge, exciting times, and the opportunity to learn to teach marching band.
In 1981, Mike was named head band director at Northbrook High School in Spring Branch ISD. With the help of assistant directors Ed Pagliai and Sherry Merritt, and the support of junior high directors Jill Yancey and Joyce Boelsche, the Northbrook Band earned consistent Sweepstakes awards, Best in Class awards, and placed as a TMEA Honor Band finalist. The band traveled to Washington, D.C., Florida, and Hawaii. Mike was invited to judge UIL contests and conduct All-Region bands around the state. During his time at Northbrook, Mike developed lifetime friendships with many outstanding Spring Branch ISD band directors.
The most life-changing day in Mike’s Northbrook experience was when the principal told him he had just hired a new choir director. “Take good care of her,” he counseled. Not one to ignore the principal’s advice, Mike went immediately to meet the new choir director, Priscilla Fite, and so began a school romance and marriage in 1986 that has flourished over the years and produced their wonderful children—Robert and Sarah. Mike’s family has always been his top priority and he is thankful to have found ways to balance a successful band career with his family responsibilities.
In 1991, Mike accepted the head band director job at Cy-Fair High School in Cy-Fair ISD. The growing district offered opportunities for further development of Mike’s career. The Cy-Fair Band, under Mike’s direction, and with assistance from Mark Veenstra and Shirley Holstein, continued its tradition of success at contests and festivals and won awards at the Blinn Marching Contest. One highlight with the Cy-Fair Band was playing for the Republican National Convention in 1992 in the Astrodome. Mike and Priscilla built a new house and planned on settling down to raise their family and stay in Cy-Fair, but that was not meant to be.
When Hall of Fame member Bobby Floyd announced he was leaving Berkner High School to become the Executive Director of TMEA, Mike’s early interest in having his “dream job” in Richardson ISD became a possibility. Mike interviewed with Dr. Michael Mamminga, Director of Fine Arts for the Richardson ISD, and the search committee. He was thrilled when selected to become the Director of Bands at L.V. Berkner High School. This was a dream fulfilled—to become part of a district with such a great legacy of band history. No one fills the shoes of Bobby Floyd, but Mike’s goal was a smooth transition and to maintain the success of the BHS band as he added his touches to the program. Assistants Greg Hames, Pete Tolhuizen, and Bob Johnson completed his BHS dream team. During Mike’s thirteen-year tenure at Berkner, he was fortunate to work alongside many outstanding junior high feeder directors, including Jerry Brumbaugh, Bob Straka, Abe Castellano, Hall of Fame member Bob Brandenberger, and many others. Mike developed lifelong friendships with RISD colleagues Hall of Fame member Scott Taylor, Peter Warshaw, and Hall of Fame member Marion West.
In order for a band program to experience the type of success that Berkner enjoyed, it needs to have outstanding students, teachers, parents, and administrators. During Mike’s tenure, this magical combination worked to produce a great band program. Mike enjoyed the best administrative support possible, a highly motivated and successful band booster organization, outstanding directors and private lesson instructors, and many of the most talented and motived band students in Texas. Mike is very proud of the leadership program he developed with the marching band and is sure those lifelong leadership experiences were as important to the students as their high musical accomplishments. Mike brought in Frank Troyka and Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, who worked directly with Berkner students and staff to develop a highly effective student leadership program.
Highlights of the years at Berkner included performing the annual spring concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts, consistent UIL Sweepstakes, and Best in Class awards at many festivals on trips to Florida, California, and Corpus Christi. The Berkner Band was a consistent finalist at the UIL State Marching Band Contest as well as a top finalist each cycle of the TMEA Honor Band process. The Berkner Band performed for The Midwest Clinic in Chicago in 2000. Berkner bands always performed very challenging literature and many students earned positions in All-State Band and Orchestra—the record was fifteen in one year! A magical moment was the presentation of the Sudler Flag in 2004 to the Berkner Band by Gladys Wright, Chair of the Sudler Foundation, and having her conduct “The Stars and Stripes Forever” on the spring concert.
Richardson ISD was a great place to raise a family. Priscilla taught elementary music to Robert and Sarah at Yale Elementary, and one of Mike’s fondest memories of Berkner was having Robert in his band for three years. Mike gives much credit for his success at Berkner to Dr. Michael Mamminga for his constant support and will always be thankful to Bob Floyd for his help during the transition and for his friendship that has grown deeper throughout the years.
Upon Dr. Mamminga’s retirement in 2006, Mike was named Director of Fine Arts for Richardson ISD and entered a period of band/choir/orchestra advocacy and mentorship of young directors in Richardson. Mike worked with the various directors in each program to forge new paths and to continue the outstanding music education for which Richardson had long been known. Mike continued to enjoy judging contests and clinicing bands throughout the state.
Mike and Priscilla retired from teaching in 2008, when Mike accepted the offer from the Texas Bandmasters Association board to become the new Executive Director. Mike is thankful to TBA’s former Executive Director, Al Sturchio, for his mentorship, friendship, and support throughout the years. The new position required a move to San Antonio, and a whole new set of challenges was in store for him. But Mike’s experiences teaching, clinicing, judging, and prior service as a TBA board member set him up to be a success in this position as well. He is responsible for all aspects of the operation of TBA and works with the TBA Board of Directors to present the annual July convention, as well as professional development outreach sessions throughout the school year. He also serves as editor of the association’s quarterly publication,
The Bandmasters Review. During Mike’s tenure, the TBA convention has expanded to include the TBA Academy for New Teachers, High School Student Day, and Booster Club training. One of the things Mike enjoys most about his TBA job is the opportunity to work closely with the TBA Board of Directors and getting to know so many outstanding band directors throughout the state. Mike has enjoyed being able to give back to his profession through his service to TBA.
Mike has been honored with several recognitions throughout the years: he was named Outstanding Young Alumnus of Tarleton State University (1989), inducted into the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu (1990), presented the UIL Southwestern Bell Sponsor Excellence Award (1998), presented the RISD’s RISE Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award (1999), elected to membership in the American Bandmasters Association (2004), presented the TBA Lifetime Meritorious Achievement Award (2006), and presented the Outstanding Music Educator Award by the National Association of State High School Associations (2015).
Mike has said many times that he is the luckiest person alive. He is thankful for the hundreds of friendships he has developed through the band world across the country. When asked what he does, Mike always replies proudly “I am a teacher.” What do you teach? “I teach students. I was fortunate to use band as the vehicle to grow these young students into productive adults.” Mike’s greatest satisfaction comes from the successes of so many of his former students who have careers as professional musicians in symphony orchestras and the United States military bands, as well as the many who have become band directors and music teachers, and the others who will be music advocates for a lifetime. Mike spent his career as a band director and never had to “go to work” because being a Texas Band Director became who he was, not what he did. Oh, and by the way, the director of that Sweetwater band who played at Mike’s elementary school and started him on this lifetime journey as a band director? Hall of Fame member Pat Patterson, the first Executive Secretary of the Texas Bandmasters Association!

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