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Tom SoRelle - Class of 2021

  In 2020, Tommy Allyn SoRelle retired after fifty-one years of teaching students about music and band in the public school of Texas. His life adventure started in 1947 in the small community of Jayton, Texas, where he helped on the ranch with the crops and the livestock. This outdoor experience is where he developed his love for nature, gardening and bird watching - all stressless hobbies that have followed and entertained him throughout his life. His mother, Tommie Joyce SoRelle, was a dedicated stay at home mom and his father, Purvis SoRelle, was a farmer and rancher and for many years Sheriff of Kent County.

  Tom began his interest in music when his grandmother decided it was time for him to play the piano. She taught him to play gospel style from the Baptist hymnal. He and his sisters, Sharon Kocurek and Melody SoRelle, soon joined the First Baptist Youth Choir and had the great fortune to work with truly dedicated and fantastic directors. 

  In the fifth grade, Tom enrolled in the band at the school as an alto sax player. In high school, Tom was selected for All Region Band and for the first time, played advanced music far above the level he had played at Jayton. By this time, he had already decided to be a band director and teach others his love for band.  His band directors, Hap Meyers, Roark Barnes, Tom Taylor and C. Doyle Gammill, had supported and encouraged his band experience.  Tom served the band as Drum Major and bass drummer his senior year. 

  Tom got additional musical experience organizing and playing with a local rock band called the Gables. They played for dances, parties, and special programs.  In the group, Tom sang, played guitar, tenor sax and keyboards. 

  Almost from birth, Tom grew up with a cute, dark haired, sassy girl as one of his friends. Kathy Cave was an athlete, a cheerleader, a twirler and played flute.  It took a while for him to smarten up to how fantastic she was.  But soon she became his girlfriend for high school and college and then became his bride.  Fifty-one years later, they are very happily married having raised two great sons who were both musicians, Jeffrey, who lives in San Angelo with his wife Elizabeth, and Jonathan, who God took in December of 2019. Their sons gave them three beautiful granddaughters, Lauren, SoRelle, Abbey SoRelle and Leah SoRelle/Sutton. Leah married Noah Sutton and brought a treasured new grandson-in-law into the family.  

  Tom’s family made a huge contribution to his career.  His only regret is that he had to spend so much time away from them. Without their love and support, any accomplishments would have been meaningless.

  Tom entered school at Texas Tech University in 1965 and was truly fortunate to become a member of the Goin’Band from Raiderland under the direction of Dean Killion.  At Tech, he was proud of his service in Kappa Kappa Psi Band Fraternity as well as his service to the Goin’ Band.  In the Goin’ Band, he started on alto saxophone and his senior year, Mr. Killion asked him to play lead bass drum in the percussion line. Tom came in early, learned the cadences, and started on a real band adventure as a percussionist. He loved it.

  After graduation from Tech in 1969, Mr. SoRelle began his teaching career under his friend and mentor, Phil Anthony.  He taught junior high band for two years at Littlefield Junior High, where the band earned first division awards and placed second in the TMEA Honor Band contest.  
  In 1971, Tom accepted the head director position at Springlake-Earth Consolidated Schools and stayed for three years. This was a unique experience since he was called on to teach not only high school band, but also all middle school band classes, elementary music, and assist with the choir.

 Tom was called back to Littlefield as the Head Director in 1974.  Under Tom’s direction, the Littlefield Band became a leader on the South Plains by introducing modern corps style drill and music into the marching show. They were one of the first schools to use rifles and flags with the band. The Littlefield Band was a Sweepstakes Band every year and was a competitor in the early years of Texas State Marching Competitions at Memorial Stadium in Austin, making the finals three times. A winter storm canceled one of the finals performances, and another was tragically ended when a thunderstorm hit the stadium just as the Littlefield Band took the field. Colleagues who were significant in Tom’s early career were Ralph Smith, Bill Woods and Earl and Laverne Ray.

  In 1981, Tom accepted the position as Director at Bands at Texas City High ISD and stayed for twenty years. This gave him the opportunity to get some experience with 5A band literature and a new marching style. Thanks is given to Randy Luster, assistant director for twenty years with Mr. SoRelle. Randy was a fabulous musician and had terrific knowledge of instruments and of band literature.  Tom was again fortunate to have outstanding directors to mentor him.  Eddie Green, Jim Sudduth, and George Walters were always available to help.

  At Texas City, there was a special relationship between the band and the community, the band was asked to play for dedications of fountains, memorials, and statues in remembrance of the Texas City Disaster in 1947, where so many were killed in the explosions. Tom’s other great memories from Texas City were the performance welcoming the King of Denmark to Houston, the performance for the Republican National Convention in Houston, and playing the last game of the season for the Oilers every year at the Astrodome.

    In 1998, Mr. SoRelle accepted the position of Director of Bands at Frenship High School. The Frenship Band flourished, growing in participation, enthusiasm, and musical skills.  How fantastic to have not only outstanding students and directors, but also enthusiastic parents, teachers, and administrators to work with.  The Frenship Band won Sweepstakes all twenty years of Mr. SoRelle’s tenure, and never received a rating from any judge lower than 1st Division in concert, sight reading, or marching.  

  The Frenship Band performed eight times at the Texas State Marching Contest and was an Honor band finalist on several occasions. The band was fortunate to travel and perform at competitions around the state and nation. The highlight for the band was the patriotic performances on eight separate occasions at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. 
  Mr. SoRelle had fantastic staff members at Frenship. The first year, master teachers Ray Lashaway, June Bearden, Scott Carter, and Geoff Bissett joined Tom to help build the Frenship Band Program.  Many other fine student teachers and directors followed. Tom was truly fortunate to have new teacher Scott Carter who stayed on the staff for twenty years as Associate director. A special thanks to the other directors who helped with the Frenship Band. Keith Bearden, Dr. Charles Traylor, and Dr. Sara McCoin were valuable musical colleagues to the program.  

  During this time, Mr. SoRelle volunteered weekends with the local youth symphony orchestra as woodwind and brass coach. In addition, Mr. SoRelle has almost always been music director at church. At his most recent church, the choir attendance more than doubled under his direction.  
  Mr. SoRelle served as TMEA Region 17 Band Chair, Area Coordinator for the All-State and Area auditions and Texas State Band Chair for TMEA in 1994 and 1995.  He served as President of TMEA in 1997.  Tom continues to serve TMEA as Area A Chair for the TMEA Mentoring Network where he assigns mentors to new or experienced directors who request help.

  Mr. SoRelle was honored in August of 2000 in Chicago, Illinois, by Band World Magazine and the Sousa Foundation by induction into the John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor
  Mr. SoRelle is immensely proud of the band students who graduated from his bands. They have grown up to be leaders, as well as outstanding citizens of their communities.  

  Tom would like to thank the Hall of Fame Committee and the membership of Phi Beta Mu for this amazing recognition and knows that through the continued efforts of amazing Texas Band Directors, the future of music education is in wonderful and capable hands.

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