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Kathy Johnson - Class of 2023

On Sunday, April 6, 1958, while the rest of the family was sitting down to a nice Easter lunch, Patricia and Cecil Mitchell were at St. Paul’s hospital in Dallas, TX, where at 5:30 pm, Kathy Kay Mitchell, their first child was born. Kathy and her brother Kenneth were raised in Dallas, TX, where their father served the city as a police officer for 34 years and their mother owned and operated her own hair salon.

Throughout her early childhood, Kathy studied ballet, tap, and jazz and it was during a solo performance in the Dallas Ballet’s 1964 production of The Nutcracker that she became mesmerized by the music of Tchaikovsky. That was somewhat of a turning point for Kathy in terms of the arts, as it was then that she knew she wanted to be a flute player when it was time for her to join band. When the junior high band came to her elementary school to recruit and perform for the sixth graders, her focus was entirely on the flute section. Consequently, in the fall of 1970 Kathy began her band journey at Comstock Junior High School in Dallas ISD under the direction of Fred Smith. The flute was a constant companion, and it didn’t matter where she was, Kathy would take it out of the case to practice. Many ‘concerts’ were given in her aunt’s front yard while waiting for her mom to pick her up after school! She is such a band nerd!

In December of 1972, during her freshman year of high school, Kathy’s family moved to Crandall, a small town that did not yet have a band program; however, one was to be started the following year. Connie Hamrick and Eric Moseley were Kathy’s directors during her high school years. While waiting for the other students to ‘catch up’, Kathy continued playing her flute and studied privately in Dallas with Vickie Trowbridge, a student of Claire Johnson and Eddie Green. This is where Kathy’s training really began. There were some tears during that first lesson as Kathy had never really heard a ‘real’ flute player, and it was so beautiful that it made her cry. From then on, she practiced diligently to sound like Vickie and made a tremendous amount of improvement throughout her high school years. During this time Kathy also served as the first drum major in the history of the Crandall High School band.

After graduating from high school, Kathy attended North Texas State University where she was the proverbial little fish in a big pond. Being around so many amazing musicians, the sky was the limit for her. Kathy had the honor of studying flute with Dr. George Morey, Dr. Mary Karen Clardy, and Myrna Brown while at NTSU along with music education professors Robert Winslow, John Stansbury, Roger Warner, and Darhyl Ramsey to name a few.

After completing her Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1981, Kathy married Eric Johnson, her husband of 42 years. In 1982 after riding in the RAGBRAI, a bike ride across Iowa, and attending TBA where Eric proudly sported his ‘wife’s badge’, she began her teaching career in Lewisville ISD at Griffin Middle School as the assistant director to Dick Clardy. Kathy became the head director in 1984 and during her time at Griffin had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful students and band families. Students under her direction earned UIL Sweepstakes each year, placed in the top five in the Texas Honor Band competition on multiple occasions, and earned many other accolades. Through Dick Clardy and Mary Karen Clardy, both very influential educators in Kathy’s life, she was fortunate to make the acquaintance of some of the most highly regarded directors in the state of Texas. The likes of Gary Garner, J.W. King, Randy Storie, J.R. McEntyre, and Don Hanna frequented the Griffin band hall and made a huge impression on Kathy as she worked to absorb as much information from these great educators as possible.

In 1985 Kathy was offered the opportunity to play with a little ‘reading band’ started by the great music educator, Howard Dunn, another big influence on Kathy, and trombonist Kim Campbell. This little reading band turned into America’s Premiere Wind Band, The Dallas Winds. Kathy is an original member and has played flute in the Dallas Winds for the past 38 years and now under the direction of Jerry Junkin, another mentor of hers. Kathy is proud to be on 22 of the Dallas Winds recordings and to have performed with the Dallas Winds at the Midwest Clinic, the American Bandmasters Association, the College Band Directors National Association conference, and at the Texas Music Educators conference. Through the Dallas Winds Dallas ISD outreach program, Kathy is the Artistic Director for the Dallas Winds Honor Band where high school band students from Dallas ISD come together to work with Dallas Winds artists and perform two concerts each spring semester. Since Kathy started her band journey in Dallas ISD, she feels to have come full circle now conducting these Dallas band students.

In 1988, Kathy and Eric became parents to their first son, Benjamin Leif Johnson, who spent three days with his parents before succumbing to a genetic disorder. Then in 1989, Matthew Layne Johnson was born, quickly followed by his brother Adam Linn Johnson in 1991. At this point, Kathy took a short break from the classroom to give attention to her two toddlers. From 1989-1993 while she and Eric were raising their family, Kathy taught private flute lessons and finished her Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas. While at UNT she became acquainted with Dennis Fisher and Eugene Corporon, two more influential music educators who made a great impact on Kathy’s career.

In the fall of 1993, Kathy came back to the classroom and opened Arbor Creek Middle School in Lewisville ISD as the assistant to Steve Seibert, another dedicated music educator and friend. While at Arbor Creek her students enjoyed consistent sweepstakes ratings at UIL and developed as individual musicians.

In 1997 Kathy opened McKamy MS as the assistant to Rick Villarreal and became the head director in the fall of 2001. It was at the 2001 TMEA conference that the McKamy Honor Winds performed and Kathy was inducted into the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu. In December 2001, right after the September 11th attack on our country, the McKamy Honor Winds had an amazing performance at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. While at McKamy, students enjoyed consistent sweepstakes ratings at UIL and were Best in Class Winners at various festivals, but more importantly, they had many meaningful musical experiences and created many fond memories throughout their journey.

In the fall of 2006, Kathy made the move to Argyle High School as the Director of Bands. This was the most well-rounded district that Kathy had ever worked in, due in large part to the outstanding leadership team. With the help of the band, Argyle ISD earned the Lone Star Cup presented by UIL each year that Kathy was there. Under her leadership, the Argyle High School band earned the State Marching Band title in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 and was the silver medalist in 2016 and a finalist in 2006. The Argyle High School Wind Ensemble was honored to perform at the 2007 Midwest Clinic and the 2009 Texas Music Educators Association conference as the 3A Honor Band. Imbizo by Julie Giroux was composed and dedicated to the Argyle High School Wind Ensemble for their Midwest performance. Other accolades of the Argyle Wind Ensemble include National Windband Honors winner and ATSSB Outstanding Performance Series winner. In 2009, the Argyle band program was awarded the Outstanding Band Program Award by the American School Band Directors Association and in 2014 was named the Texas Bandmasters Association Exemplary High School Band Program. Once again, it is the memories and shared experiences that are the things that Kathy and her students remember most fondly.

In 2016 the first book of Musical Mastery for Band, the flute book, was published. This project started in a three-inch three ring binder when Kathy began her teaching career at Griffin Middle School. As time passed, many teachers were interested in the materials that she used for her beginner woodwind classes, so she decided to partner with some friends and create a method for band. This project came to fruition in 2018 with co-authors Asa Burk, Alicia DeSoto, Chris Meredith, and Dominic Talanca when the full band and teachers’ editions of Musical Mastery for Band were finally published.

Upon her retirement in 2018, Kathy accepted an adjunct position at the University of North Texas where she is the Coordinator and Instructor of Woodwind and Brass Techniques. To be an influence on future music educators is to be a steward for this profession and a service that is a labor of love. In 2020, Kathy was asked to be the UIL Region 2 Executive Secretary where she has the pleasure of working for all of the fabulous band, choir, and orchestra students and teachers in UIL Region 2.

Kathy is humbled to have been granted membership in the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu, the American Bandmasters Association, and now the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. She is equally proud to be recognized by the Texas Bandmasters Association with the Meritorious Achievement Award. Kathy has worked diligently throughout her career to be the best educator that she can and to be a lifelong learner. She has a healthy philosophy of teaching the individual musician and any accolades are simply a byproduct of that philosophy; but there are so many individuals along the way who have influenced and mentored her, including students, parents, administrators, peers, and educators throughout her career, to whom she is eternally grateful.

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