Playing in the band and being drum major opened up a new world for Bob Copeland. Bob’s parents were from farming families, but they did not relish that life. His mother was a homemaker for the most of her adult life and his father an air-conditioning engineer. When Bob was one year old, his parents moved to Dallas.
Bob enjoyed elementary music classes in school – which he attributes partly to the good looks of the young music teacher – and was in the school’s Select Choir. In the fifth grade, his parents thought he needed the discipline of being in the band. His mom, not thrilled with the “squeaks” inherent with a beginner on clarinet, settled for the “honks” coming from the trumpet and in 1949 purchased Bob’s first trumpet for $75. His Dad said that when Bob learned to play, he would buy Bob a professional $150 horn.
Paul Veach, a clarinet player who also played trumpet very well, was his first band teacher and later his private music teacher. Mr. Veach came to Bob’s home once a week for $2 a lesson.
In the eighth grade junior high school band program, Bob had his first contact with marching band. He thought it was neat that band members got to go to football games free! The band director was Otis Harvey. At that time Bob began to take lessons from Jake Jacoby, a well-known Dallas professional trumpet player.
In the ninth grade, Mr. Harvey asked him if he would be interested in trying out for drum major. He was fairly shy person at that time and nervous about being in a leadership role. Bob agreed and was named drum major; he began taking lessons with the drum major at SMU. That taught Bob a great deal, not only the physical movements and baton handling required, but also much about leadership. Bob reported that as drum major his social circle expanded and, more importantly, improved the beauty of his girlfriends, too!
Sunset High School in Dallas was a sports powerhouse in those days, and the marching and concert bands were quite good, too, with a number of very fine players and a knowledgeable director, Russ Williams. Mr. Williams was quite a character, though, with a quick wit and not above blurting out a profanity or two at times. (He never seemed to get into trouble for that.)
After marching in the block for a year, Bob tried out for and was selected as drum major. He also joined ROTC and was the drum major of the military band as well as the designated “bugler” for military reviews each week.
Because of Bob’s positive high school band experience, he assumed he would play when he entered college in 1957. But at orientation with engineering students at Arlington State College, the head of the department warned that 75% of freshman engineering students would fl unk out because they did not spend enough time studying. And Bob wanted to become a petroleum engineer – he had an uncle in the oil business – and he wanted to make a lot of money. So he became a slide-rule-carrying engineering student and did not sign up for the college band.
One semester later after visiting with some of the band kids, he decided that he did have time to be in the band. He had missed it terribly! He heard there was a new band director at ASC, Jack Mahan, who was looking for a new drum major. Bob was one of three selected, and he became the head drum major. He was in ROTC and drum major of the military band too.
Jack Mahan was wonderful to Bob. His stern and straightforward style taught Bob a great deal about being a leader and, as it turned out, a teacher and musician. Mr. Mahan insisted that Bob listen to opera recordings to study the subtle musical nuances of great composers and the world’s best singers. Mr. Mahan hired Bob to teach at the summer drum major camp at the college, which continued for 23 years. Bob had concerns about choosing engineering over music and Mr. Mahan told him it was not too late in his life to make changes.
In 1960, Mr. Mahan received a call from the superintendent of the DeSoto ISD, who was looking for a part-time high school band director. Mr. Mahan asked Bob if he was interested and drove him to the interview. Bob got the job.
Shortly after that, Bob asked his beloved Anita, a twirler in the ASC band, to marry him. And in July 1961 they tied the knot – and Bob reports that she has been his love and partner for 45 years.
He spent two years part time in Desoto, and finished his bachelor’s degree at Texas Wesleyan College. In 1963, Bob was hired for his first full-time band job as band director at Nichols Junior High in Arlington. He moved to the assistant director’s job at Arlington High in 1968, then to the band director position at Lamar High (which Bob calls the world’s greatest high school) in 1970, and then to director of fine arts for Arlington ISD in 1980, where he stayed until retiring in 2000. During his time in Arlington, he completed work for his master’s degree in education from North Texas State University, which was awarded in 1968. He received mid-management certification from Texas Women’s University in 1982. Bob enjoyed his time at Arlington High school, working with Dean Corey, who Bob called “one of the finest men he has ever known.”
Since his retirement from Arlington ISD, Bob and Anita have been working with Jim Jacobsen as assistant executive secretary of Region 5 UIL Music Contests and mentoring first year teachers in AISD. Bob also conducts the Arlington Community Band.
Bob is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Administrators Association and Texas Retired Teachers Association. He has served as Junior High Region 5 chairman; High School Region 5 chairman; Region 5 president; president, Alpha Chapter, Phi Beta Mu; and as secretary, Alpha Chapter, Phi Beta Mu. He is a member of the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame and of Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity. He is a Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow and is conductor/music director of the Arlington Community Band.
Bob believes he is a lucky man. He is eternally grateful to many people who have helped him lead a very happy life:
*his wonderful parents
*his loving and supportive wife, Anita
*his fantastic children: Cara and Ryan Copeland
*his band directors: Jack Mahan, Paul Veach, Otis Harvey, Russ Williams
*his colleagues: Dean Corey, Jim Jacobsen, Bob Rober, Steve Musser, Ron Koen, Phi Beta Mu brothers and sisters, and countless others, including two of the world’s greatest secretaries, Mildren Hall and Dee Benton, and
*his many friends, both in and out of this profession.