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Brian Merrill - Class of 2021

Brian Merrill was born February 9, 1954, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Denzil and Janice Merrill, the youngest of four brothers. His family moved to Fort Worth in 1958, where he would later begin band in the fourth grade, playing the clarinet. The family dentist told his parents that the clarinet was going to bend out his front teeth, so his father took him to the bargain basement at Montgomery Wards and bought Brian his first trombone. Brian loved playing trombone and performing on it in bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and even a rock band.

Brian graduated from Paschal High School in 1972. He was inspired to teach by his director, Phil Aikman, served as Drum Major his senior year, and, most importantly, met the love of his life, his band sweetheart and future wife, Nancy. When setting their wedding date, Brian and Nancy did not know about the Texas Bandmasters Association annual summer convention or all the free BBQ anniversary dinners they would have. Brian and Nancy would later serve on the TBA Board of Directors from 2005 – 2011.
Brian attended North Texas State University, receiving a Bachelor of Music Education in 1976 and a Master of Music Education in 1981. He would begin his directing career at Lamar Junior High School in Irving, teaching there four years, then moving to Irving Nimitz High School for three years. While teaching at Lamar, Brian would often forget to pick up his paycheck at the end of the month and his principal would walk it down to the band hall after school, chuckling all the way. It was always a bit of a surprise to Brian that he was getting paid to do something that he loved so much.

In 1983, Brian began directing at Duncanville High School, where he would remain for twenty-three years until his retirement in 2006. The long list of awards and accomplishments of the students and directors of the Duncanville ISD band program are the most defining of his career and have led to many wonderful musical experiences and professional opportunities. They include three UIL State Marching Contest Championships, the Tournament of Roses Parade, two TMEA Honor Band performances, two performances at the Midwest Clinic, and concerts at Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and in Japan. He is deeply grateful to Tom Shine for his mentorship, vision, leadership, and friendship. He appreciates all the directors who taught in Duncanville during his tenure there and especially wants to recognize Donna Strain, Michael Rowden, Evelio Villarreal, Abby Villarreal, Verda Shine, Jeff King, Rich Williams, David Brandon, Tammy Fedynich, Gary Williams, and Brian Beck. While teaching in Duncanville, Brian also began learning from Eddie Green, whose influence continues to this day.

Brian has always had a strong focus on mentoring teachers, especially young directors. After retiring from public school, Brian took a position as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Education at Southern Methodist University. He would teach both undergraduate and graduate courses there for the next eleven years. Brian is particularly proud of a teaching focused masters program that he and colleagues Lynne Jackson and Sarah Allen developed that has been helpful to a great many young band directors, especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He was also key in the implementation of the Young Educator Seminars held at SMU and of the Art of Teaching Music summer workshop, a collaboration with lifelong friend Matthew McInturf. From 2011 – 2019, he was the coordinator for the TBA Academy for New Band, Choir, and Orchestra Directors. In retirement, Brian has also served as a clinician/consultant for over 50 middle school and high school band programs.

In 2017, Brian became the Conductor of the Mansfield Wind Symphony, an all-volunteer organization of adult musicians. The Mansfield Wind Symphony will perform at both TBA and the Midwest Clinic in 2021.

Music and band have always played an important role in Brian’s family. His grandmother played a steel clarinet in an all-girls band and taught piano. His mother was an accomplished pianist and teacher. His wife played flute and teaches piano. Their three sons, Greg, Jeff, and Steve, and their three daughters-in-law, Sarah, Coral, and Michelle, were all in high school band and made Texas All-State a collective eleven times. Their granddaughter Hannah plays flute and they suspect that their four grandsons, all under the age of five, will one day play in the band. Brian wants to thank Phi Beta Mu for this humbling honor. He also wants to thank all the students, colleagues, and friends who made this recognition possible. Most of all, he wants to thank his family for all of their love and support.

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