“Be the best you can be...that will be good enough,” was Don Hanna’s frequent challenge to his students.
As an infant, Don’s family moved to Raymondville, Texas. His father, Otis, was a farmer and his mother, Clemmie, a homemaker, who was insistent that her children have opportunities in the arts. Don began piano lessons at the age of 10, joined the band in the seventh grade, and as a senior became the first student from Raymondville High School to make the All-State Band. He used his keyboard skills as pianist and later organist at First Baptist Church of Raymondville.
In 1959 he entered Hardin-Simmons University on a music scholarship, majoring in piano and clarinet. He was awarded scholarships to play in the Concert & Cowboy Bands, the University Combo and the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was second clarinet. He was a charter member of the Theta Lambda chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and served as president his senior year. At Hardin-Simmons he met Shirley Blackwell, a piano major who had graduated as valedictorian of Bell High School in Bedford, Texas. She played flute in the University Concert Band. On a Concert and Cowboy Band tour, Don and Shirley began to notice each other. The Concert Band had just finished their portion of the performance for the student body at McCamey High School and the all-male Cowboy Band began their show. While all the young ladies in the Concert Band sat in the audience during this part of the performance, an aggressive high school boy kept putting his arm around Shirley. When he persisted with his advances, Shirley turned to him and sternly said, “You see that big guy playing first clarinet up there? He is my fiancé and he will beat you up.” After the concert, Don and Shirley were teased about the incident and began sitting with each other on the bus. They were married on July 13, 1963.
In 1964, Sweetwater High School Band Director Pat Patterson hired Don to serve as director of the Junior High School band. In 1966, the Hannas moved to Odessa, where Don served as the band director at Ector Junior High and Crockett Junior High. During this time they became the proud parents of Alan Donald Hanna. In 1969, they moved to Fort Stockton where he assumed his duties as director of bands. In 1970, Don and Shirley completed master’s degrees at the University of North Texas. They were also blessed with the birth of their daughter, Kimberley Joy Hanna. While in Fort Stockton, Don served as organist at First Baptist Church, was ordained as a deacon and later served as choir director. He was invited to become a charter member of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association and later was honored with membership in Phi Beta Mu, nominated by his colleague and friend G. T. Gilligan, revered director of the Kermit High School Band.
In 1979, he was named director of bands for the Denton ISD, where his son Alan, a trumpet player, and daughter Kimberley, an oboe player, would later be students in his band. After attending West Texas A&M, Alan and Kimberley chose to pursue band directing. In Denton, Don served as organist for First Baptist Church and later at Grace Temple Baptist Church. During this time the ACLU filed suit against the school district for performing a band halftime show of Christian music. The band “enjoyed” national media coverage for several weeks, and Friday night halftime shows recorded by Dallas/Fort Worth television stations via helicopter were examined to see if the new flower petal formation Don substituted still looked like a cross! Thanks to the overwhelming support of the community and band parents who encouraged Don to be represented by an attorney from the American Center for Law and Justice, the case was settled: public schools must meet certain guidelines, but it is legally permissible to perform sacred music.
In 1992, superintendent of the Amarillo ISD, a former Phi Mu Alpha brother at Hardin-Simmons University, persuaded Don to accept the position of band and orchestra director at Amarillo High School. Upon leaving his position in Denton, the mayor presented him with a proclamation declaring August 15, 1992 “Don Hanna Day.”
During his 30-year teaching career, Don’s bands accumulated 28 University Interscholastic League sweepstakes awards, qualified for the state marching contest every year but one, and were in the finals for the state honor band competition four times. His bands traveled to national competitions and were named outstanding in class 13 times.
Don retired from the public schools in 1994 to become director of bands and associate professor of music at Hardin-Simmons University, where his bands would average 35 to 40 performances each year. The Cowboy Band made three European tours, was invited to perform at the Gubernatorial Inauguration of Governor George W. Bush and later his Presidential Inauguration. The Concert Band received the first invitation in the University’s history to perform for the Texas Music Educator’s Association Convention. Also while in Abilene, Don was organist for Westminster Presbyterian Church and served on the board of the Abilene Opera Association. He retired in 2002 from Hardin-Simmons.
One year after retirement, his love for teaching brought him back into the classroom at Pantego Christian Academy in Arlington. He taught band to students in grades five through 12, and during his first year he recruited 38 of the 42 fifth-graders to join the band. In 2004, a former student asked him if he would consider teaching beginners in his feeder school. He accepted the position and was hired two years later as the instrumental music specialist for the Fort Worth ISD.
He served as vice president of TMAA from 1990-1992, state band chairman for TMEA from 1992-1994, president-elect, president and past president of TMEA from 1994-1997. He has been honored in his profession many times, beginning with a seat in the Texas All-State Band in 1958, his induction into Phi Beta Mu in 1973, dedication of the All-School Sing at Hardin-Simmons University, induction into the ABA, and invitations to present clinics at state conventions throughout the country. Don has served as guest conductor for the United States Army Band, National Christian College Educator’s Band and many others, along with countless high school and middle school bands. Associations, fraternities and service organizations include ABA, TBA, TMEA, TODA, CBDNA, ASBDA, NBA, Phi Beta Mu, Pi Kappa Lamda, American Guild of Organists, Phi Mu Alpha and Lions International. His publications include Scales & Rhythmic Figures for Band, Daily Warm Ups for Middle School Band, Daily Warm Ups for Advanced Band and Daily Warm Ups for Symphony Orchestra.
In 2005, he was honored with the Bayard H. Friedman Award at a Fort Worth Symphony concert. In 2006, he received the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Texas Bandmasters Association.
Don is very proud of his daughter, Kimberley Hoyle, and son, Alan Hanna, who are band directors, and his wife, Shirley, for her love and support through these many years. A very special gift in his life has been his granddaughter, Laura Jane, also a musician.