GERALD A. BABBITT
Gerald Allen Babbitt was born September 5, 1942, in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Allen and Miriam Babbitt. At an early age, his parents taught him to love music. He fell in love with bands as he listened to “March Around the Breakfast Table” each morning on the radio. At age six, Jerry began studying piano, as his mother was an accomplished pianist. In the seventh grade, his aunt gave him her prized Sears & Roebuck “professional model” Silvertone trumpet, and Jerry enthusiastically joined the band at Burbank Junior High School, with Mr. Phil Busche as his teacher. Trumpet and band quickly became the most important thing in Jerry’s life. He played in the first Robert E. Lee High School band, under the direction of Cal Schultz. Mr. Schultz, and the new band director at Mac Arthur High School, John Pearson, introduced Jerry to what became his new love, jazz! Jerry was selected for membership in the All-State Orchestra, and played in the San Antonio Youth Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Richard Kole, and G. Lewis Doll.
By this time, Jerry had already decided that he wanted to become a band director; however, Jerry’s dad, who owned a dental laboratory, had hoped that he would be a dentist. After one rather unsuccessful year in pre-dentistry, Jerry told his Dad that he just had to be a band director. His dad lovingly told him, “Go ahead, but don’t ever complain to me on payday!” His mom and dad become his most loyal “band parents.”
In 1958, while a senior at Lee, Jerry began studying trumpet with Joseph (Dr. Joe) L. Bellamah, whom he quickly grew to love and respect. In 1961, when Dr. Joe was appointed Director of Bands at Texas College of Arts & Industries, Jerry transferred to follow his mentor and study music. While at A & I, he was very active in all of the music department's instrumental ensembles, but his life centered around the Javelina Band, which he served as band president. At A & I, Jerry first met fellow band member Rodney Klett. They bonded in a friendship that has endured to this day.
Jerry received his Bachelor of Music degree from A & I in 1964 and began his teaching career as band director at Memorial Junior High in Kingsville. He also assisted and was mentored by Joe Rogers, band director at H. M. King High School, where Jerry directed the jazz band. His lead trumpet player was Rolando Molina. While teaching in Kingsville, he continued graduate course work and received his master's degree from A & I in 1966. He also completed the course work for his Music Supervision and Principal certifications. It was at Memorial that he won his first UIL sweepstakes award in 1967.
In 1967, Jerry followed his dream of becoming a marching band director, by accepting the band director position in Pearsall, Texas. He was the only music teacher in the entire school district and taught all band classes, grades 5 -12. The program grew, and George Jansen was hired as assistant director. While in Pearsall, his bands won five UIL sweepstakes awards and were named “Outstanding Class 3A Band” at several major band festivals. Pearsall’s friendly rival was the fine Hondo Owl band, under the direction of a gentleman who quickly became Jerry’s close friend, Billy Harrell.
Leading the marching band was Pearsall’s first-ever male drum major, Johnny Martinez. Playing in the Pearsall High School band was a cornet player by the name of George Strait, whose high school sweetheart, Norma Voss, was Jerry’s head twirler. George eventually dropped band to start his own band. It did well, and George and Norma are still happily married. Perhaps you have heard of them.
In 1973, Jerry accepted the position of Director of Bands and Music for the Round Rock ISD. Jerry and George moved to Round Rock where they constituted the entire “band staff”. During that first year, the Round Rock High School band won their first UIL sweepstakes award in eleven years, and continued to win sweepstakes every year of Jerry’s tenure. The band grew from less than 100 members to 340 members. In 1978, the Round Rock High School bands “won it all” at the Buccaneer Music Festival at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. For first time in the history of the festival, one single school was selected as the outstanding band in every category of the competition.
In 1980, Jerry became Director of Bands and Music for the Eanes ISD in Austin. His Westlake High School band earned the UIL sweepstakes award during each of his five years at Westlake and won numerous additional honors and awards at prestigious band festivals throughout the country. At the invitation of State Representative Jake Pickle, they performed for the dedication of the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. His Westlake High School band was selected as the TMEA Class 4A State Honor Band, was the first runner-up at the UIL state marching band contest, and won the UIL state wind ensemble championship. In 1984, his Westlake band became the first U.S. high school band ever invited by the Chinese government to perform a concert tour in the Peoples' Republic of China. Their tour included performances in China, Hong Kong, and Hawaii.
In 1985, Jerry became Director of Bands and Music for the Hays Consolidated ISD, located in the fast-growing south Austin suburbs of Buda and Kyle. That year, the Jack C. Hays High School band won their first UIL sweepstakes award in the 17-year history of the school. They continued to win sweepstakes during each of the 17 years Jerry directed the Hays High School band. The Hays CISD band program grew from 300 to more than 1,200 students, and the Hays High School band from 102 to 320 members during his tenure as band director. The Hays HS band was a finalist at the UIL state marching contest and in the TMEA Honor Band competition seven times, and won the UIL Class 4A state wind ensemble championship three times. The Hays High School band performed at the National Concert Band Festival in Chicago. In 1998, the Hays band was selected to receive the John Philip Sousa Foundation's prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor. In 2001, the Hays band traveled to Ireland to march in the world famous Saint Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, and returned as the overall grand champion of the Dublin Bandfest. They also won major band festivals in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee, and throughout Texas. The Grammy Foundation named Hays as one of the “Top 100” high school music programs in the United States.
In 2002, Jerry retired from band directing and became full time supervisor for the Hays CISD fine arts program and director of the Hays Performing Arts Center, a position he held until his retirement in 2004.
Jerry has presented numerous clinics for TBA, TMEA, UIL and TMAA, served on many state committees, has served on the TMEA state board, on the UIL/TMEA Music Advisory Committee, and is a charter member and past-president of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association. In addition, he serves on the band selection committee for the John Philip Sousa Foundation's Sudler Flag of Honor award. Jerry continues to be active as a music consultant, clinician and adjudicator throughout the state and nation. He was inducted into Phi Beta Mu in 1979. His sponsors were Billy Harrell, John Bridges, and Roy Norton. His other professional affiliations include TMEA, TBA, NBA, TMAA, and TMAC. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been executive secretaries for UIL music Region 18 since 1975. In 1980 he organized the Great Hills Baptist Church orchestra in Austin and continues to serve as their conductor.
Jerry was the recipient of the Denius-UIL Sponsor Excellence Award, has been awarded the National Band Association Citation of Excellence and received the TMEA Leadership and Achievement Award. He has, on three separate occasions, received commendations from the Governor of Texas, the Texas and U.S. Legislatures, and the Mayor of Austin. During his 38 years as a band director, his bands won the UIL sweepstakes award for 35 years. His bands were finalists at the UIL state marching contest and in the TMEA Honor Band competition thirteen times. They won TMEA and UIL state championships seven times. He has been honored as an “Outstanding Music Graduate” by Texas A & I University, and, has twice been named to “Who's Who Among America's Teachers.”
In 2005, Jerry was inducted into the Texas A & M University-Kingsville Javelina Band Hall of Fame. In 2006, The Hays CISD honored him with the naming of the Gerald A. Babbitt Auditorium. This was especially meaningful to him, since Jerry was actively involved in the designing, construction, and opening of this beautiful performing arts center in 2003.
He feels that these awards and tributes are only overshadowed by this most humbling honor of being inducted into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. This is truly a special privilege and a wonderful culmination to an extremely rewarding career in music education.
Jerry’s career goals and accomplishments have been made possible through his friendships and inspiration from his mentors, many of the state’s leading band directors. He is afraid that if he starts naming them here, he will regrettably leave someone out. Therefore, thank you to every director who has had a part in Jerry’s career, with advice and friendship through the years. He wants to express his appreciation and gratitude to his thousands of former dedicated band students for being an integral part of making this moment possible. Also he extends sincere thanks to the many very capable and talented band directors, who served with him as assistants throughout the years.
Jerry wants to especially thank Cheryl, his loving, dedicated wife, and best friend of 35 years, his family, including his mother Miriam, and children Karen and Ryan, for their constant support and prayers throughout his career.