ARNOLD FRANKLIN WHEDBEE
Arnold Franklin Whedbee was born in Wichita, Kansas, on November 8, 1913. His education was in the Wichita public schools, the University of Wichita, and Colorado State College of Education where he received a Master of Arts in Music in 1940.
Prior to military service in World War II, he taught band and orchestra in Gypsum, Kansas; Council Grove, Kansas; and Abilene, Kansas. Mr. Whedbee was a versatile musician not only on band instruments, but was a proficient string player on viola and string bass. His major band instruments were baritone and tuba.
During the war, he saw duty in the Pacific theatre as a Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class on a U.S. Navy submarine. Following discharge from the service, he accepted a brief teaching stint in Ennis, Texas, prior to moving to Beaumont in 1946 where he remained for thirty-six years.
Arnold Whedbee became the icon of music professionalism in the southeast Texas area during his years of service as band and orchestra director at Beaumont High School. His bands garnered Sweepstakes nineteen of twenty years and were consistent First Division winners at State and National Contests. His record with the Beaumont High School Orchestra was equally impressive with twenty-one consecutive Sweepstakes. The BHS Band and Orchestra always traveled on Greyhound buses. Arnold would not make a trip on school buses, ever!
Arnold’s dry wit and sense of humor were a delight to his colleagues. During a special extra rehearsal with a guest clinician, the Beaumont High School percussion section was under attack. After many frustrating attempts to have a bass drummer play a part in Reed’s La Fiesta, Arnold told the clinician that taking his percussion section to a AAAA UIL contest was like running a mule in the Kentucky Derby.
On another occasion, the marching practice field was next to the stadium, so Whedbee was able to stand on top of the bleachers and rehearse the band. One afternoon while the band was rehearsing, a maintenance man was replacing bulbs in the light towers. Arnold softly told the band that this was the kind of job one had when they did not graduate from high school. The maintenance man overheard the statement and soon after began accidentally dropping light bulbs on the bleachers. Arnold had to run for cover under the stadium.
For many years Arnold was a member of the Texas State Music Selection Committee; a member of the Texas State Textbook Committee, and co-author of the State Course for School Orchestras. He became Director of Music for Beaumont ISD in 1955 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1982. Arnold was a member of Phi Beta Mu; the American School Band Directors Association and Lions Club International.
He once walked into a new teacher’s beginner class that included eight trombones. He calmly asked the teacher if all the trombone players were left handed. During one of the area football games, the visiting band struck up Colossus of Columbia, and their director asked Arnold what he thought of the band’s performance. Arnold replied “sounded pretty good, where did you get that arrangement?”
The list of Whedbee’s former students is absolutely amazing. They include Toby Hanks, tubist with the New York City Brass Quintet and Chair of Brass at Yale; Jerry Smith, Chair of Music Department at Oklahoma and Long Beach State; John Barnes Chance, composer (Arnold premiered his first composition while he was a member of the Beaumont High School Orchestra); and Early Anderson, one of New York’s top professional trombonists; plus many, many music educators and life long lovers of music.
Arnold and his wife, Jenatha, had two children, a son, Arnold Eugene, and a daughter, Sue Ann. Following a long illness, Arnold Whedbee died in Beaumont, Texas, in 1991. He left a long legacy of musical achievements, all accomplished with a dash of wit and charm.