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LU's Johnson inducted into Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame

Veteran music educator Barry Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Lamar University, will enter the Phi Beta Mu Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame at the Texas Bandmasters Association annual convention July 26 in San Antonio.

The international bandmasters fraternity selected Johnson for the prestigious honor in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments as a band director, teacher and mentor. Johnson’s career spans almost 50 years in which he inspired decades of students at Texas high schools, as well as Lamar University. Johnson said he plans to retire from LamarAug. 31 after almost 30 years of service.

Barry JohnsonJohnson joined the Lamar faculty in 1983 as assistant director of bands and director of the marching band, rising through the ranks to become director of bands, chair of the Department of Music, Theatre & Dance and, in 2000, vice president for student affairs.

He led his Lamar bands to some of the nation’s most prestigious performances – “raising the bar” for Lamar’s program, one colleague said – while achieving an international reputation as a conductor and clinician. His bands at Hillsboro and Woodville high schools earned 10 consecutive University Interscholastic League (UIL) sweepstakes awards, among other honors.

“My career in education has been exciting,” Johnson said. “I want to thank Phi Beta Mu for giving me the opportunity to receive such a prestigious honor. Words cannot express the gratitude and appreciation I have for this recognition.”

Emphasizing the role of his family and students, Johnson said, “The help and assistance I have received from my wife, Pattie, is beyond description. She has been the stabilizer in my life and career. Our two sons, Michael and David, both musicians/teachers, have also been our pride and joy. Of course, our five grandchildren are the loves of our lives.”  The Johnsons were high school sweethearts. Michael is a professional musician in Houston, and David is assistant band director at Vidor High School.

Johnson added, “Of course I would be remiss not to mention the many students I have encountered during my career. It has been a wonderful experience, and I appreciate the hard work and dedication each student has provided.”

Membership in the Hall of Fame originates with nominations received from a variety of sources, including the general public, music educators and Phi Beta Mu Members. A standing committee reviews candidates and makes the selection. A candidate must be at least 65 years of age (or deceased), be retired after teaching a minimum of 10 years in Texas and have produced and maintained a consistently outstanding band program.

Gary Wells, retired Hamshire-Fannett band director and Johnson’s colleague since the 1960s nominated Johnson for the honor. Wells is secretary-treasurer of the Phi Beta Mu Alpha (Texas) Chapter.

“Nominees for the Hall of Fame have in common a career of excellence,” Wells said. “In Barry’s case, he produced outstanding high school bands in Hillsboro and Woodville and then raised the bar at Lamar University . . . He is a friend and mentor to area band directors, and his influence is felt daily by the students of directors he prepared for teaching.”

Johnson grew up in Luling, where, working in his parents’ grocery store, he “learned the lessons and benefits of hard work at an early age.”  He began taking piano lessons in second grade and evolved to play the organ. Johnson was playing cornet by fifth grade and went on to earn top honors for performances in junior high and high school.

In 1961, he enrolled at Hardin-Simmons University, where he played trumpet in the Cowboy Band, later transferring to Sam Houston State University, where he also played in the band. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree in 1964, Johnson received a graduate assistantship in music theory. He earned his master of arts from Sam Houston in 1966.

Johnson’s first teaching job was at Texarkana College, where he taught music and directed the band. After three years, he became assistant band director at Highland Park High School in Dallas while taking classes toward a doctoral degree and playing in the band at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas).

In 1972, Johnson continued his public school career as band director at Hillsboro High School, where he inherited a high school band of 60 students and also was responsible for the band program in sixth- through 12th grades. There, his bands earned four UIL sweepstakes awards – the only ones achieved to date in the history of the school. By the end of his tenure, his bands numbered 130 members at the high school and 120 in junior high.

In 1977, Johnson became band director at Woodville High School, where his bands received six UIL sweepstakes awards and a number of other honors. The band earned recognition as Class AAA Texas Honor Band in 1980, becoming the first Class AAA Honor Band under the current classification system.

As director of bands at Lamar, Johnson led the band program to acclaim, honors and awards. He also faced the challenge of maintaining an active band program after LU dropped football in 1989.  The Lamarissimo! concert series made its debut in 1990 and continues to achieve success after more than 20 seasons. The band program continued to flourish with performances at the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) on four occasions. The Lamar Symphonic Band, under his direction, became the first Texas band to perform at the Western International Band Clinic. In 1999, Johnson conducted the Symphonic Band in the first recording of the 18 marches composed by Kenneth J. Alford, the “British March King.” Johnson also conducted the Concert Band of Southeast Texas, which performed at the bandmasters’ convention on two occasions.

Throughout his career, Johnson has strived to remain on the leading edge of his profession. He earned his doctor of education degree from the University of Houston in 1986. A lifelong student, he has completed seminars in conducting and has frequently accepted invitations to lead clinics, judge contests and conduct honor bands throughout the United States and Canada.  He earned a diploma in fine arts from the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he spent many summers studying, teaching and establishing connections for Lamar. His reputation as a teacher and conductor led to educational experiences in British Columbia, Banff, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

A quotation on his office wall summarizes Johnson’s educational philosophy: “The ultimate test of our effectiveness is the positive difference we make in the life of an individual student.”

Another favorite quote reflects his approach to teaching: “Nobody ever teaches anyone to teach . . . You learn to teach by opening up, by questioning, by doubting, by exploring . . . You learn how to teach by learning how to learn.”

“I believe a person needs to grow,” Johnson said. “Life is learning.”