The Music Lives On, Due to Chalkboard Champion Hortense Parker Gilliam

hparker2Throughout history, our lives have been genuinely enriched by legions of music teachers who have perpetuated the love of music in our young people. One such music teacher was Hortense Parker Gilliam, an elementary school music teacher who is the first known African American graduate of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

Hortense Parker was born in Ripley, Ohio, in 1859, the fourth of six children born to John Parker and Miranda (Boulden) Parker, a free black couple. Her mother was born free in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was born into slavery, but in 1845 he was able to buy his freedom. John Parker became a noted abolitionist, inventor, and industrialist. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, John guided hundreds of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. In fact, the Parker home has been renovated and is now designated a National Historic Landmark.

Hortense’s parents were determined that all of their children should get an education. As children, Hortense and her two younger sisters received a standard education in traditional subjects, and they also studied music. After her high school graduation in 1878, Hortense enrolled in Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, now known as Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Her expenses were paid by a wealthy patron. The institution did not know she was a woman of color until she arrived on campus, but they did not cast her out. On the contrary, Hortense lived on campus in a dormitory along with 250 other students. Unlike many institutions of her day, Mt. Holyoke did not require its black students to live off campus. Hortense was remembered by her classmates as “a quiet ladylike girl, noted especially for her musical ability.” Because of her exceptional musical abilities, faculty and fellow students alike often asked her to play the piano in the seminary in the evenings after classes were done. She had aspirations to continue her music education in Europe upon her graduation, but unfortunately her patron passed away during her senior year. She graduated in 1883, the first known African American student to graduate from that institution.

After graduating from college in 1883, Hortense taught music and piano at Lincoln Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1906-1913. That same year she married James Marcus Gilliam, a graduate of Cornell University, and moved with him to St. Louis, where she taught music. During her long career, she also taught music at schools in New York and Indiana.

As the first African-American graduate of Mt. Holyoke, Hortense was featured in Our Path: Students of Color at Mt. Holyoke at the 2007 Alumnae Student Conference there. This chalkboard champion passed away on December 9, 1938, near St. Louis, Missouri.

The Celebrated Music Educator Joseph Edgar Maddy

6923752_124979199529One of the most talented teachers of music education in American history was the celebrated educator Joseph Edgar Maddy.

Joseph was born on October 14, 1891, in Wellington, Kansas, the second son of two teachers. Joseph never graduated from high school, but as a young man, he attended the Wichita College of Music in Wichita, Kansas, where he studied violin. Later he became a member of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. In 1918, he became the first music supervisor of instrumental music in America when he accepted the position in Rochester, New York.

After a short time in Rochester, Joseph was encouraged by Will Earhart to take a job at Morton High School in Richmond, Indiana, to revive the outstanding school and community music program Earhart had developed there some years earlier. Joseph remained in Richmond for four years. In 1924 Maddy was invited to Ann Arbor to become the supervisor of music in public schools and the chairman of the Music Department for the University of Michigan. There he developed one of the few conducting courses in the country, and he also conducted the Michigan All State High School Orchestra. While teaching in 1925, Maddy organized the first National High School Orchestra to play for the Music Supervisors National Conference (MSNC) in Detroit in 1926. In 1927, Joseph was invited to bring the National High School Orchestra of over 250 High School musicians from 39 states to the MSNC in Dallas that year.

While in Ann Arbor, Maddy also pursued other approaches to music education by developing teaching materials in collaboration with Thaddeus P. Giddings for a radio teaching program.The radio program taught band and orchestra instrumentation with instruction books distributed by NBC. By 1936 their radio program aired five times per week, and believed to have reached 225,000 student listeners. It was sustained until 1940, and employed professional musicians to help with technique demonstrations.

In 1928 Maddy formed the National High School Orchestra and Band Camp, incorporated as the National High School Orchestra Camp on July 6, 1927.The camp exists today in Interlochen, Michigan, as the Interlochen Center for the Arts and has generated several complementary entities including Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen College of the Creative Arts, and Interlochen Public Radio.Joseph also published and collaborated on a number of instructional materials and courses for elementary band and orchestra including the Universal Teacher, Tritone Folio, the Willis Graded School Orchestra and Band Series, and the Modern School Graded Orchestra Books.

He was a member of the Epsilon Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and a recipient of the Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity, and he received an honorary degree from Earlham College in 1965.

This pioneering music educator passed away on April 18, 1966, at the age of 74, in Travers City, Michigan.

More Amazing Band Directors and Their Amazing Students From Yesterday’s Tournament of Roses Parade

Yesterday I wrote about some of the marvelous high school bands that participated in this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, and their dedicated and hard-working band directors. Because there were thirteen of them, I could only cover half of them in the post. But today, as promised, I am paying homage to the remaining half of these very remarkable band directors and their amazing students. Read on for the details.

B-Glendora-2014-tn[1]Band director Scott Schwarz led the magnificent one-hundred-eighty-one-member Glendora Tartan Band and Pageantry, which hails from Glendora High School in Glendora, California. Scott is in his twenty-second year at Glendora, the longest tenure of any director in the history of the school. The Pageantry is under the direction of Linda Bergslien. Linda is an alumnus of Glendora High School, and when she was a youngster, she was also a member of  the Tartan Band and Pageantry. This group, ranked one of the top bands in Southern California, can boast a long list of impressive achievements, having earned over one hundred fifty awards and honors over the last four years. This year’s participation marks the ninth Rose Parade appearance for the school, and the fiftieth anniversary of their first appearance. What I enjoyed most about this band was the seventeen bagpipers that marched behind the banner carriers. The bagpiper uniforms were designed according to the 42nd Black Watch, the most renowned Scottish Regiment. You’re amazing, Plaid Pride!

CHS-Rose-Bowl-Pic-300x208[1]Next in the parade came band director Christopher Kreke leading the Carmel High School Marching Greyhounds from Carmel, Indiana. Christopher received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and he completed his master’s degree in music technology from Indiana University. Two-hundred-forty-four strong, the Marching Greyhounds have garnered the National Championship two times, the Indiana State Championship four times, and have been selected as a finalist for the Bands of America National Championships for seventeen straight years. The group has also won the Sudler Shield Award for outstanding high school, youth, and international marching bands, an honor given by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The award is one of the highest forms of recognition for marching band programs.The Winter Guard is a two-time WGI World Class Champion and has captured four straight Indiana State Championships. “The students have worked incredibly hard to earn this honor, and I’m looking forward to their performances at Bandfest and in the parade,” expressed Christopher. “This is truly a dream come true for our kids and staff!”

1486663_10152456800223066_1214049467_n[1]Also participating in this year’s parade was the Homewood High School Patriot Band from Homewood, Alabama, led by band director Ron Pence. Ron, who has directed the Patriot Band since 1996, earned both his bachelor’s and his master’s in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi. Ron garnered the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association in 1991, 2004, and 2005. The music program in Homewood has been recognized as one of the top one hundred in America. Ron’s three-hundred-twenty-member marching band has represented the state of Alabama in the Inaugural Parades of both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, has appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade eight times, two Fiesta Bowl Parades in Phoenix, Arizona, and three Orange Bowl Parades in Miami, Florida. They have even marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland. Way to go, Patriots!

2013-2014_LAUSD_All_City_Honor_Marching_Band_THUMB[1]Head Director Tony White led the Los Angeles Unified Schools All-District High School Honor Band, a group comprised of distinguished student musicians from high schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District. This group was huge, three-hundred-sixty members! The All-District Band has been a part of the Tournament of Roses Parade every year since 1973, and Tony has directed the group for the past thirteen years. This gifted band director worked as a music educator at John C. Fremont High School for ten years. Although he currently works as a professional jazz musician playing the saxophone and clarinet, he is still heavily involved with music and arts education, serving as the music and entertainment coordinator in the LA Unified School District. “The  challenge for me is maintaining both,” he asserts. This chalkboard champion earned his bachelor’s degree from University of California, Riverside, his teaching credential at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Pepperdine University.

309710-mmmain[1]From Louisiana, the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 performed under the direction of Jeffery C. Herbert, Sr. The two hundred Purple Knights (Yes! Two hundred, not one hundred!) of this band attend an all-boys parochial school in New Orleans. This unique band  has created a style that is uniquely their own, both musically and in marching technique. But let’s not ignore those snazzy uniforms and helmets! And the group has also played a part in Civil Rights history. In 1967, the Marching 100 broke the color barrier by becoming the first African American marching band to lead Rex during New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras Parade. “The parade used to go  through the Quarter at that time,” explained Jeffrey. “But you  know those guys in ’67 paved the way for black bands to be able to march today,” he said. The group has also performed at Epcot Center in  Orlando, Florida, the  Magic City Classic in Birmingham, Alabama, the Southern University Bandfest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the ESPN parade for the Super Bowl in 2013.  Well done, Purple Knights!

bilde[1]Rick Moffit directed the Robert McQueen High School Lancer Band, which hails from Reno, Nevada. One of the most amazing facts about this school is that twenty-four percent of the student body is enrolled in the music program. “All of the kids are excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” expressed Rick. This talented one-hundred-forty-six member group has been named the Nevada State Marching Band Champions an impressive fourteen times. They have also marched in the Inaugural Parade for George W. Bush, participated in the Fiesta Bowl Parade and Field Show twice, and were a part of both the 2012 and 2013 Hollywood Christmas Parades.  According to Newsweek, McQueen is the number one high school in the state of Nevada. Outstanding, Lancers!

1czNil.AuSt.7[1]The last high school band to appear was the Colony High School Knights Marching Band from Palmer, Alaska, led by band director Jamin L. Burton. And their presence in the parade marks a first. “They’ve had bands from all around the world in this parade. They’ve never had a band from Alaska,” remarked Jamin. “It is really awesome.” Although this group was comparatively small, only seventy-nine student musicians, they have big spirit. They have been named Alaska State Champions nine times, every year since the band was formed! In addition to the Rose Parade, the talented group performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, the Sugar Bowl in 2010, and the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, DC, in 2006. Awesome, indeed, Knights!

These music educators, and many, many more, show just how much of an impact great teachers and their programs have upon their students. We surely do owe them a debt of gratitude, not only for yesterday’s parade entertainment, but for working so hard and putting in so many hours to create such a memorable experience for our young people, for helping to, as this year’s parade theme says, make their “Dreams Come True.” Chalkboard champions, all.

Thirteen Remarkable Band Directors Lead Their Student Musicians to the Tournament of Roses Parade

Happy New Year, everybody! One of my favorite activities of New Year’s Day is to watch the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, whether in person or by telecast. Since I was born in Pasadena, this unique, flower-inspired parade has always been very special to me. I have many happy childhood memories of standing on the curb on Colorado Boulevard to watch the spectacular floats, outstanding bands, and wonderful equestrian groups march by. This year, I was especially impressed with the many talented high school bands that participated in this marvelous parade. Let’s pay tribute to them!

IMG_0113[1]The Hawaii All State Marching Band Na Koa Alii is one of the most impressive high school bands in this year’s parade. This three-hundred-ninety-five-member band is comprised of student musicians from forty different public and private schools representing the state of Hawaii. I truly enjoyed the talented Native Hawaiian dancers that accompanied this impressive band. The massive group gathered under the expert leadership of Managing Director John R. Riggle, who was the band director at Kamehameha Schools from 1977 until his retirement in 2009, and Lead Music Director Kerry Wasano, current band director at Maui High School in Kahului, Hawaii. Kerry is in his fifteenth year at Maui High School, where he conducts the Concert, Symphonic, Marching, and Pep Bands. He graduated from Maui High School in 1989, completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in music in 1996 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and earned his teaching certificate in secondary education in 1998. Aloha!

JHS-Band-News_2-300x200[1]Equally impressive was the Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson High School Marching Band from San Antonio, Texas, directed by Jarrett Lipman. Jarrett graduated magna cum laude with dual degrees in music education and euphonium performance from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. In this young school’s five-year history, Jarrett has led his two-hundred-nineteen-member band to earn both state and national recognition, having been named a finalist in the University Interscholastic League State Marching Band Contest in 2012, and having placed eighth at the Bands of America Grand National in 2011. They have also garnered the Winterguard International Scholastic Open Silver Medal in 2013, and the Texas Colorguard Circuit Scholastic Open Gold Medal in 2013.  The most amazing feature of the Johnson High School Band is their inclusion of acrobats, a first for the Tournament of Roses Parade! Well done, Johnson Jags!

img_0090[1]Then there was Band Director Kevin Long leading the very colorful two-hundred-forty-nine-member Liberty High School Grenadier Band from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Kevin is himself a 1981 graduate of Liberty High, and earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 1985. He has been his alma mater’s band director since 1990. When I watched this band, I truly enjoyed  the authentic kilts, not to mention the twenty-two bagpipers, which sounded every bit as impressive as a four-hundred strong “mass bands” at Highland Games! The Grenadier Band musicians wear the exact uniform of the Coldstream Guards of the official band of Queen Elizabeth of England. The bagpipers wear the uniform of Her Majesty’s Scots Guard Pipers. Eighty of the musicians wear genuine bearskin hats, and the pipers all wear traditional feather bonnets. The majorettes wear a uniform inspired by highland dress and a Guards musician’s tunic. Very nice, Grenadiers!

Dobyns-Bennett-Quartet-2014-tn[1]Lafe Cook directed the Dobyns-Bennett High School Marching Indian Band from Kingsport, Tennessee. Lafe is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he served as the drum major for the Southland Marching Band. He is a former president of the Tennessee Bandmasters Association and a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Band Association. This gifted educator is also a four-time recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence, and he was recently honored by the John Philip Souza Foundation as a Sudler Flag of Honor Laureate. Lafe has been at Dobyns-Bennett High School for eleven of the sixteen years he has served as a band director. His talented group of student musicians can boast numerous achievements. They were named a Band of America Regional Finalist, a Band of America Grand Nationals Semifinalist, a Western Carolina University “Tournament of Champions” Grand Champion, a Middle Tennessee State University “Contest of Champions” Grand Champion, and a Tennessee State Marching Band Champion. This impressive three-hundred-fifty-member group also performed in President Barack Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Parade.

cv0710-616_WHS_t670[1]Then, of course, there was the two-hundred-seventy-five-member Westfield High School Marching Bulldogs from Chantilly, Virginia, directed by Stephen Panoff. “It’s just exhilarating — a bucket-list achievement for a band director,” Stephen expressed. “It’s one of those iconic moments you hope for, and I’m thrilled for the kids.” This thirty-year veteran teacher and band director earned his bachelor’s degree in both math and music from The College of William and Mary in 1983, and his master’s degree in music teacher education from Shenandoah University in 1998. Stephen’s talented students have been recognized as a Virginia Honor Band nine times, and they have been named an International Music Festival Grand Champion. The group has also earned the title of  NYC Big Apple Music Festival Grand Champion. Way to go, Bulldogs!

1508550_10152491680393626_867753605_n[1]Another impressive group was the two-hundred-eight-member Rosemount High School Irish Marching Band from Rosemount, Minnesota, directed by music educators Leon Sieve, Steve Olsen, and Bojan Hoover. Leon Sieve earned his bachelor’s degree in  music education from South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, in 1993, and his master’s degree from the American Band College at Southern Oregon University, Ashland, Oregon, in 2005. Steve Olsen  earned his bachelor’s degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his master’s degree in music education from the University of Minnesota. Bojan Hoover, a third year teacher, earned his bachelor’s degree in  music education and music performance from the University of Minnesota. Like the other bands that marched in this year’s Rose Parade, Rosemount students can boast an impressive list of achievements. Several times they have been named  Minnesota State Marching Band Champions, Minnesota State Fair Parade Grand Champions, Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Class AAA Champions, and Band of America St. Louis Super Regional Finalists. Well done, Irish!

With thirteen remarkable high school bands participating in the Rose Parade, it isn’t possible to fit them all into one blog post. But don’t worry about anyone being left out! Tomorrow, I’ll write about the other remarkable high school band directors and their impressive students who were chosen for the honor.

The Power Couple of Music: Distinguished Teachers Roland and Almita Vamos


Roland and Almita Vamos are a talented husband and wife team who are considered among the most prominent violin and viola  instructors in the entire world. Their students have become accomplished soloists, members of world-renowned chamber groups and orchestras, and laureates of many prestigious international competitions. The musical couple has been recognized at the White House seven times. Both husband and wife have been named Distinguished Teachers by the National Endowment of the Arts. They have also been honored by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) with the Distinguished Service Award, and showcased on CBS television show Sunday Morning News.

Both Roland and Almita attended the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York City. There Roland studied with Oscar Shumsky and William Lincer, and Almita studied with Mischa Mischakoff and Louis Persinger.

Roland and Almita are members of the faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago and at Northwestern University. Prior to teaching at Northwestern, they were on faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The talented teachers are also the co-founders of the Weathersfield Summer Music Festival in Weathersfield, Vermont. The festival, inaugurated in 1993, offers an opportunity for serious students of all ages to study intensively for six weeks in an enthusiastic and supportive atmosphere through private lessons, master classes, and performance opportunities.