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George Strickland - Class of 2019

“Make me an instrument of the Lord.” This has been the prayer and theme of the life of George Strickland as an educator, administrator, advocate, and facilitator of music education in the great state of Texas. His passion has been to provide an opportunity for students to develop a love of music and to develop those God-given talents to express that love.
George Vernon Strickland, Jr., (Buddy), was born on January 23, 1951, in Austin, Texas. Named after his father, he is the youngest of three children of Vernon and Earline Strickland. His music development began at the age of five with piano lessons that continued through the tenth grade. In the sixth grade beginner band, he chose the clarinet for his instrument under the direction of Gerald Campbell at Rosedale Elementary School in Austin. While continuing to develop his skills at Lamar Junior High School under the direction of Vic Williams, he participated in the premiere of March Lamar, by Clifton Williams. Buddy attended Austin’s Lanier High School, where he played the bass clarinet, served as Drum Major for two years, learned to play string bass in the orchestra, and even sang bass in the mixed choir his senior year. Directors included Charlie Jones, band; Edward Gifford, choir; and the late Dr. Jay Dunnahoo, orchestra.
After high school graduation, his plans were to attend the military school of music while in the United States Navy because Buddy wanted to “see the world.” However, scholarship opportunities came along from Howard Payne University in Brownwood and that changed everything. Director of Bands Greg Berry, private lesson instructor John Farrell, and Department Chair Dr. George Baker set Buddy on a course in music education. Completing a Bachelor of Music Education degree in four years was a demanding schedule but it also brought about many lifetime memories, including assisting Mr. Berry with marching and concert clinics and attending the very first DCI competition in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Driving to Whitewater in the band’s battered van meant KOA Campgrounds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, driving around the clock up there and back, and learning about the newest trends coming to Texas bands.
James Mallow, now retired director of the Famed Brady Bulldog Band in Brady, Texas, became his first mentor as student teacher supervisor. Several of Buddy’s closest director colleagues graduated from Howard Payne in the same time frame and have shared many years of teaching instrumental music to students in our state: Greg Miller, retired, Iowa Park High School; Chuck Christian, retired, Howard Payne University; Johnny Miller, retired, minister and former band director; Dr. Daryl Trent, retired, Frisco ISD; and Jim Alexander, retired, Mansfield ISD.
In 1973, George began his professional teaching career as the only band director in Robert Lee, Texas, a small West Texas town north of San Angelo and the county seat for Coke County. Because a school administrator saw the name “George” on the job application, Buddy became known as George in the professional world, or as he would jokingly say, “I’m George to those that respect me!” Doug Fry, former Robert Lee band director who was moving to Cisco Junior College, introduced George to Edna Havins, city secretary and Band Booster President. Edna became George’s biggest supporter, meal provider, advisor, and surrogate mom. (She was Granny Edna to son Jeremy!) In 1975, the Robert Lee Steer Band was invited by Robert Lee Superintendent Jim Binkley, the first TACS President, to play at the Texas Association of Community Schools convention in San Antonio. That was an intimidating request for a young teacher, but the band was well received by the attendees.
The only two school districts in Clay County are Robert Lee ISD and, twelve miles away, Bronte ISD. The band director at Bronte High School in 1973 had been teaching for four years; therefore immediately, Louis Thornton became a mentor and reference that George could call upon. Louis quickly joined the list of George’s close director/colleague friends for a lifetime. For five years George and Louis worked together to improve relations between the archrival school districts. During one normal Friday night halftime, both school bands performed their shows; then, without the knowledge of either school administrations or any of the parents, the bands combined mid-field to entertain both sidelines. Raised eyebrows from the spectators soon gave way to rousing applause and cheers for the best bands in the county. Louis and George also worked together as Directors of Student Activities of the Angelo State University Band Camp in San Angelo and Tarleton State University Band Camp in Stephenville.
In 1975, a “flag corps” was added to the Steer Band; Robert Lee was one of only eight public schools in Texas with a flag corps that year, and George became one of the “experts” in the field. In his third year of teaching in Robert Lee, he married the love of his life, Melinda Bynum Strickland, and that same flag corps showed up at their wedding, in uniform, to salute the couple as they left the church. (Really though, they were hiding the groomsmen’s shenanigans related to the couple’s car!) Melinda became his unpaid assistant, chief supporter, and confidante for the band program. George presented one of the first color guard clinics at the annual Texas Bandmasters Association Convention in 1978.
In 1978, the Robert Lee High School girls basketball team won the Class A State Basketball Championship under coach Ronnie Ruff. All but two of the team members were also important leaders in Robert Lee’s concert band. On Wednesday after the championship game on Saturday (and with many absences from school for area, region, and state tournaments), the band completed their quest for Sweepstakes, the highest honor for a high school band. That example of sharing students in a small school atmosphere was a continuing picture of cooperation in George’s career in small schools.
After five years, the Stricklands moved to Comanche, home of the “Injun Band from Peanut Land.” Located northeast of Brownwood, this rural peanut farm area was a perfect setting for George to grow professionally and for George and Melinda to grow as a family. Son Jeremy Michael Strickland was born in January 1979. This life-changing addition created new adjustments to the normal band director experience for sure! George was responsible for all bands, fifth-grade through high school, and stage band, by himself. He even sponsored Connie (Taylor) Cline and Dawna (Pyburn) McAfee in their participation in the TMEA All-District, All-Region, and All-Area choirs and UIL events because Comanche did not have a choral program. During his time in Comanche, George served as Secretary/Treasurer of TMEA Region VII. Two years later, he was elected TMEA Region President, a position he held through the late 1990s.
Henrietta, Texas, was the next home for George and his family. Located a few miles east of Wichita Falls, the town and school were rich in traditions and accomplishments. The previous year, the Bearcat Band was crowned the Class 2A UIL State Marching Band Champion. Knowing the challenge ahead of him, George worked to continue the band’s success. With the help of his first assistant director, Jon Hodge, followed by Ruth Hyde Nethery, the Henrietta bands performed in the state marching contest three times in the next seven years, placing ninth, seventh, and fourth. The band also placed seventh in the TMEA Honor Band competition. Assisting the state-qualifying bands through the years was Ed Miller, worship leader and close friend. Several memorable spring trips were made to the Fiesta Night Parade in San Antonio and the Cavalcade of Music, Colorado Springs, each providing performance opportunities for the talented students.
In 1991, George accepted the position of Director of Bands for Glen Rose ISD after being recommended for the job by retired Glen Rose director Kent Holder. George joined Linda Gerber, the assistant high school director and head middle school director. These two created another mentorship bond as each helped the other grow professionally through team teaching all the Glen Rose bands. Holder, another mentor for many years, had told George it would take at least three years to bring the Glen Rose High School Band up to the highest standards. After the first year of straight second division ratings at UIL contests, the Glen Rose Bands began a tradition of Sweepstakes, and through the next ten years Glen Rose earned recognition across the state as an example of an outstanding “small school band program.” Assisting with the achievements were assistant directors Chris McLellan, Springtown High School; Ron Finley, retired and current church worship leader; Tina Parr, Reynolds Middle School, Prosper ISD; and Valerie Kosa, currently a homeschooling mom.
The Robert Lee, Comanche, Henrietta, and Glen Rose group and individual accomplishments were numerous. Consecutive University Interscholastic League high ratings and Sweepstakes awards were earned. In his twenty-nine years in the classroom, George’s bands accumulated one Third Division, fourteen Second Divisions, and seventy-two First Division ratings at UIL contests. Concert band performances advanced in the TMEA Honor Band selection process and the Association of Texas Small School Bands Outstanding Performance Series selection. Individuals earned honors in UIL solo and ensemble contests on the Region and State levels, as well as All-District, All-Region, All-Area, and All-State selections. Very dedicated students that had strong support from their parents, families, educators, and communities achieved all of the above accomplishments and honors.
George served as the supervising teacher for several music education majors, including Melodianne Mallow, retired, Birdville ISD (daughter of George’s supervising teacher James Mallow); Doug Fulwood, Royse City ISD; Kenneth Gilbreath, Bastrop ISD (former Henrietta student); Michael Copeland, Stamford ISD; Phil Moore, Northside Baptist Church, Corsicana; and Tim Samples, Trinity Valley Community College.
In the late spring of 2002, George received a call from Dr. Richard Floyd, Director of State Music Activities at the University Interscholastic League. During the conversation Dr. Floyd said, “I’ve got a job opening in our office that you do not want to turn down,” and he was correct. For the next sixteen years George served the band, choir and orchestra students and directors across the state as the UIL Assistant Director of Music Activities. Assistance with the organization and management of the State Marching Band Championship, State Mariachi Festival, State Wind Ensemble Festival, and State Solo and Ensemble Contest were all a part of George’s job description but more importantly, this position gave George a way he could serve his colleagues and their students. Other assignments included updating and editing the UIL Prescribed Music List (PML), overseeing the UIL band sight-reading music composition process, receiving and updating music region reports, and many, many other tasks in order to support the UIL Region Secretaries, school administrators, band/orchestra/choir directors, and all Texas music students. In the spirit of cooperation, George also volunteered at the UIL State Track Meet, State Football Championships, State Volleyball Tournament, State Basketball Tournament, and State One-Act Play Contests. At George’s last UIL State Marching Band Contest, he was honored to present Brian Tillman, a former Henrietta Drum Major and now the Director of Bands at Irion County High School, the third-place trophy for Class 2A.
Throughout his music career, George has had a passion to serve his colleagues and students. In addition to the previously mentioned TMEA offices and years in the UIL office, he served as the Association of Texas Small School Bands President-Elect, President and Past-President from 1997 to 2003. During that time frame, George was instrumental in helping ATSSB and TMEA re-connect for the benefit of the small-school all-state organizations. A special memory for George was directing the combined TMEA All-State organizations on “The Star Spangled Banner” to commemorate the tenth anniversary of ATSSB. While at UIL, George served on the National Federation of High School Activity Association Music Committee. The respect for Texas bands from other state activity associations was humbling. “George, how is this issue (whatever was currently being discussed) handled in Texas?” His answer is what the committee often recommended as a course of action. It was a constant affirmation that Texas band programs are respected and envied around our nation! George also served as Treasurer and Chairman Pro-Tem of the Texas Coalition of Quality Arts Education; UIL Band Prescribed Music List Committee member; and National Federation of High School Activity Association (NFHS) Music Committee member. He is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Association of Texas Small School Bands, Texas Music Administrators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, and Kappa Kappa Psi.
As a clinician and adjudicator, George has judged in almost every UIL Region in Texas and in New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Tennessee. “Adjudicating is a passion of mine. I want to compliment and encourage students and directors through performance evaluation. Constructive comments and praise are how we grow in our art.” George has also presented various clinics for band directors, including in-service programs and sight-reading/judging clinics for regions, TMEA (650+ attendees), Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and the NFHS National Music Conference.
Having a son as a band director has provided many proud and fun moments. George joined Jeremy hosting the bands at college football games in Cowboy Stadium as a member of the Cotton Bowl Association pageantry staff. That opportunity included working several Cotton Bowls and the first NCAA College Football Championship. George was also invited to join the Texas Christian University Horned Frog Band, where Jeremy was an assistant director on numerous bowl game trips where George helped with anything needed; he didn’t just go along “for the ride.”
George and Melinda are members of First Baptist Church, Georgetown. In each community where they have lived, George has served their local church in a variety of ways: Worship leader, Sunday School teacher, Deacon, committee member, choir member, and activity facilitator. He is also a former Boy Scouts of America Den Leader and Scout Master.
George has always enjoyed traveling. His parents would take summer vacations across the United States, and he has visited forty-eight of the fifty states. After high school graduation, he traveled to Spain with the All-American Youth Honor Band, under the direction of Sam Fox. During his college years he had the opportunity to travel to Germany with the Howard Payne University Band during a countrywide evangelism emphasis. That love for travel continues as he joins Melinda and Unique Travels & Tours in facilitating student and adult group travel to U.S. destinations and abroad. He is also the director of A Note Above Festivals, a new endeavor by Unique Travels & Tours to provide encouraging performance opportunities combined with fun for any instrumental or choral group.
Family is the joy of his life. He and his wife Melinda are the proud parents of a college band director, Jeremy, Director of Bands, Tyler Junior College, Tyler, Texas. Jeremy and his wife, Ashley, have given George and Melinda the three best grandchildren anywhere: Grandson Kaden, a thirteen-year-old trombone player at Lindale Junior High School, and twin nine-year-old granddaughters Hailey and Abby.
George is extremely honored to be inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. The best honor though is to have been able to serve with and alongside tremendous colleagues in Texas music education and to experience music education and appreciation with gifted, energetic, and dedicated students that allowed him to be successful. Thank you to the many colleagues and friends listed and many others for helping him to enjoy a successful career in music education. “To God Be the Glory.”

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