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Travis Smith - Class of 2021

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Travis Smith was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi on August 14, 1953, to Claude and Rosa Smith. He is the third of four children. He grew up in the small community of Renova, Mississippi. His father worked the family farm and his mother worked for the Bolivar County Agricultural Extension Services. His educational foundation was solidly formed at Little Rascal’s Kindergarten under Miss Sally B.Williams in Cleveland, MS. After kindergarten, he attended a two-room school in Renova before moving on to H.M. Nailor Elementary School in Cleveland, MS. He started band in 1965 at East Side High School under the direction of Mr. James D. Stamps. In addition to Mr. Stamps, early music influences included his older sister, Claudette, who played piano and sang in the school choir and his older brother, Elbert, who played saxophone in high school and college band. His younger sister, Felicia, followed by playing clarinet. Travis started on trombone and did very well and was in the high school band in the eighth grade. He changed to euphonium his ninth-grade year and remained on the instrument throughout high school and college. While in high school, Travis was also in the school choir and started playing bass guitar for the Jazz Lab Band. The living room at his home became his music room.

After graduating from East Side High School in 1971, Travis attended Alcorn State University to study music. While at Alcorn, he took private lessons from band director and low brass instructor, Mr.
Samuel Griffin. After his freshman year, he transferred home to Delta State University in Cleveland where he received his Bachelor and Master of Music Education degrees.

At Delta State he met another of his long-time mentors, Dr. William (Bill) Clark, who was Director of Bands. This association led to meeting Dr. Francis McBeth, Larry Tucker, Mr. Wendell Evanson, Don Kramer, and Wes Branstein, all from Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
These men would become influential in his growth as a band director and music educator.

Travis was in all the major instrumental and vocal music ensembles at Delta State. He traveled and performed in Washington, DC, New York, and England with the Delta Chorale and later back to England playing bass with a new instrumental and vocal group “Renaissance” created at Delta State to serve as an ambassador for the university. He attended and participated in the Tennessee Tech Tuba symposium from 1974 to 1976 with his euphonium teacher, Denis Royall, where he had the opportunity to learn from Winston Morris, Harvey Phillips, Ray Young, and other nationally recognized tuba and euphonium players who were instrumental in founding the
Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association. It was also at Delta State where he learned there was a state solo and ensemble contest, Lions Band, and the Mississippi All State Band. To understand this, you must realize that Mississippi was very segregated at that time and integration was just beginning, so those opportunities had not been fully opened to Black students. Travis learned of this when another euphonium student opened his case and he saw all the medals and patches. Dumbfounded, he asked, where did you get all of those and what did they represent? Travis shrugged it off as different opportunities and exposures. Afterall, they were now in the same band and Travis was first chair. Reflecting on the situation later, it became a mission of his to never let a student miss out on educational or musical opportunities for any reason.

While at Delta State, Travis was a Dean’s
Scholar and was selected for membership into Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.

In 1977, Travis began his 41-year career as a band director in Ashdown, Arkansas where he was hired by Larry Tucker to be the first middle school band director, assistant high school director, and choir director. Larry, Marion, Jason, and Jennifer welcomed him into their family. He spent as much time with them than he did at his own place. Travis got a head start with the kids through a four-week summer band program that Larry had put in place to work with students on fundamentals and prepare them for summer band camp at Henderson State University. Larry also made sure that Travis was on the staff of the junior high camp.
Through those camps, many professional relationships were formed that developed into lifelong friendships.

At Ashdown, he was introduced to the “band director seminar” held every Wednesday evening at the Shrimp House across the street from Jerry Loveall’s music store on Stateline Avenue in Texarkana. Directors from the Four States area would gather while minor instrument repairs were being completed at the music store. These weekly “sessions” provided an opportunity to meet and talk band with other outstanding directors in the area. Regular attendees who gathered to talk band were Larry Tucker, Gary Wells, Bob Ingram, James Coffman, Frank Garza, Charles Herring, Robin Watson, John Bird, Robert Utsey, and many others who would provide input and advice on music selection and rehearsal strategies. In addition, there was the Four States Bandmasters Association. It was there where additional “seminars” were held while preparing for the event itself. Travis remembers sitting at a table with Dr. James Nielson,
Education Director of the LeBlanc Corporation, discussing Barbara Buehlman’s arrangement of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, which he was preparing for performance. Dr. Nielson talked about the history and harmonic structure of the piece and the grace notes and trills that were written in the arrangement. He got a napkin and wrote out where appoggiaturas should be and how the trills should be played for that era. From that encounter, Dr. Nielson sent him a box of educational material from LeBlanc that included the Band Book, a booklet on Baroque and Classical ornamentation as well as educational literature on all the instruments.

In 1985, Travis moved to Plano, Texas, where he was Director of Bands and Fine Arts Chair at Williams High School for 33 years. Bands under his direction consistently rated superior in UIL Marching, Concert and Sight-reading contests. In addition to receiving numerous sweepstakes awards, his bands were awarded many Outstanding Music Performance Awards at festivals in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. His Williams High School Symphonic Band was the 1990 Texas Honor Band for the Four States Bandmasters Association Convention.

One of the funniest moments of his career was on a band trip to Houston to attend the Heritage Music Festival when Clark High School, another school in the Plano Band East cluster, was also there. Travis always planned his trips down to the minute so there was no free time for students to get into trouble. Most of the students in both bands knew each other well. After returning from Astroworld, several students were going up to their rooms in the elevator with Travis and Fred Velez
, the Clark director, when one of the Williams’ students, Joshua Thomas, asked a Clark student what they were going to do the next day. The Clark student said they had several choices. Joshua said, “The only choice we get is original or extra crispy.” That was the KFC choice for the Sunday meal at Hermann Park on the way back to Plano. Joshua is now a longtime member of the U. S. Coast Guard Band.

Travis has served on region and state level music committees in Arkansas and Texas and served as Region Band Chair in both states.
He also served at the national level as a member of the executive board of American School Band Directors Association and is currently the organization's Texas State Chair. He has served as an adjudicator and guest clinician in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Tennessee. He is a Past President of the Four States Bandmasters Association. He has served the Plano Community and School District in numerous capacities and has been a mentor for new teachers as well as teachers new to Plano.

Travis’s awards and honors include being selected for inclusion in several editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and multiple selections as "Teacher of The Year" at Williams High School in Plano where he was one of the Top Ten teachers in the district to receive the Ross Perot Excellence in Teaching Award. He was in the top ten of all teachers from the district’s 67 schools and one of five secondary teachers chosen as a finalist for the Plano ISD Teacher of the Year in his final year of teaching. He received the National Band Association Citation of Excellence in 1990 and was named Music Alumnus of the Year by the Delta State University Department of Music in 1994. He was inducted into the Delta State University Music Hall of Fame on January 26, 1997, and the Dallas Metroplex Musicians’ Associations Hall of Fame in January 30, 2016. He also was the recipient of the Plano Community Forum’s Educator of the Year Award in October of 2016.
Since retiring, Travis has continued working in education as adjunct professor at Collin College where he directs the Wind Ensemble and at Texas A&M University-Commerce where he serves as a Field Supervisor for student teachers.

He is a member of Phi Beta Mu National Honorary Band Fraternity as well as the America School Band Directors, Texas Music Educators, Texas Bandmasters, and the Texas Music Adjudicators Associations. In addition to his professional responsibilities, Travis is actively involved in the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Plano where he serves as a Young Adult Sunday School teacher, a member of the male chorus, and a member of the hospitality committee.

Travis is grateful to have worked with some outstanding band directors and mentors while in Plano.
They include Larry Tucker, Jerry Thomas, Jerry Finnell, Danny Lowe, Evelio and Abby Villarreal, Fred Velez, Cindy Lansford, Jana Harvey, Nicholas Williams, Pete Tolhuizen, and clinicians, Eddie Green and Tom Bennett. In addition to his parents and siblings, he is grateful to all the wonderful students, band parents, administrators, and colleagues too numerous to name for their support during his career.

Travis is very humbled by this amazing honor and would like to thank the Hall of Fame committee
of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu for his selection into the Phi Beta Mu Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. A special thanks to Cindy Lansford, Bill Clark, and his sister, Felicia Graham, who secretly conspired to provide information and documentation for the committee.

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