JAMES GEORGE HEJL
Musician, teacher, motivator, administrator – all are part of the legacy of James Hejl. Born and raised in Caldwell, Texas, James began the study of the clarinet in the 4th grade. He graduated as salutatorian of the CHS Class of 1958, having also been selected as a member of the Texas All-State Band in that year.
He attended the University of Texas where he met the love of his life, Patsy Drury Hejl, who has shared his passion for music during their lifetime together. While at UT he participated in Longhorn Band, Symphonic Band, Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus.
Upon graduation in 1962 he was hired as band director at William B. Travis High School in Austin, the first-ever UT graduate fresh out of college to take over a 4A position in Austin (4A was the largest classification at the time.) This job opportunity came about due to a late resignation that summer, and Instrumental Music Supervisor Weldon Covington (TBA Hall of Fame #016, 1991) told James that he would mentor him in this position in the early years. After one year of second divisions, with Weldon Covington’s expert tutelage, James’ Travis Band accumulated numerous Sweepstakes awards and was twice selected Region Honor Band. With the growth of the band over six years, Travis was the first Austin school to take a junior varsity band to UIL contest in 1968 where they were awarded superior ratings in concert and sight reading.
In the summers of 1966 and 1967, James attended summer school at the University of Michigan as he began work on his Master of Music degree in music supervision. In 1968 he was the recipient of an Experienced Teacher Fellowship, one of fifteen awarded to music teachers across the country. This allowed him to attend Michigan from June, 1968, to May, 1969, and to be a member of the Michigan Marching Band (at age 30!) and the Michigan Symphony Band under the direction of William D. Revelli. In addition to music education classes with Dr. Revelli, he studied marching band techniques with George Cavender, clarinet with John Mohler and band arranging with Jerry Bilik.
Returning to Texas in 1969, James began the band program at Westlake High School, designing the band uniforms, arranging the alma mater and school songs and leading the 42-piece Westlake Band to Superior Ratings in 2A concert and sight-reading in their first year of the school’s existence.
In 1970, his university band director, Vincent DiNino (TBA Hall of Fame #124, 1998) hired him as assistant director of the Longhorn Band, a position he held for the next five years. During this time he designed and charted all of the halftime shows, supervised student staffs, coordinated the summer band director workshops and taught courses in marching band techniques and woodwind methods. Highlights of this position included four Cotton Bowl appearances, the Longhorn Band’s goodwill tour of Peru in 1972, and his charting of the halftime show for Super Bowl VIII in Houston in 1974. He was the TBA marching clinician at the summer clinic/convention in 1975.
In 1975 he accepted a position as Director of Bands and Fine Arts Department Chair at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa. While the family enjoyed life in a small town, the college lacked funds to build the type of department James desired, so in 1978 he moved to Director of Bands at Mississippi State University with the task of rebuilding the band program. Thereupon ensued five wonderful years as he built the band from 125 to 250 members and experienced the great stadiums, bands and audiences of the SEC. During this time James wrote articles for The Instrumentalist magazine, accepted judging and clinic assignments throughout the country, and took the MSU Symphonic Band on tours in the area.
The death of James’ mother in 1983 and the declining health of Patsy’s parents in Austin led the Hejls to relocate back to Texas. They were fortunate to be hired in Angleton, Texas--- James as Director of Bands and Supervisor of Music --- and Patsy as middle school band director. James was the recipient of the wonderful band program built by Don Hood (TBA Hall of Fame #215, 2008) in a town that he calls “the best band town in which he ever worked.” The band won many honors including UIL Sweepstakes awards, “Best in Class” at the Opryland Music Festival and participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In his first year in Angleton, he was privileged to have all three of his children in the Angleton High School band --- Sandra as a senior alto saxophone player, Janice as a sophomore clarinet player, and David as a freshman trumpet player.
In 1990 James entered school administration as an assistant principal at Angleton High School and was promoted to principal a year later, a position he held until his retirement in 1997. Using the same techniques that built successful bands, he led the staff to improvements in TAAS and TAKS scores, taking them from the 30-40% range into the 80-90% range and increasing scholarships for graduating seniors from totals of $91,000 in 1991 to $950,000 in 1997. In 1994 he was named Administrator of the Year by the Texas Association of Journalism Educators for his work with and support of the journalism department at AHS.
Upon James’ retirement in 1997, Patsy accepted the position of primary school principal in Fredericksburg, and James began his retirement career in real estate investing, now owning and managing properties in Kerrville, Brenham, Marlin, Houston and Pflugerville. He has also served as interim band director in Bandera, Sonora, Rocksprings, Kenedy and Mason as well as interim principal in Meridian and Marlin, taking the money made in these jobs and investing in additional real estate.
James and Patsy’s family includes their son David, a graduate of West Point, who lives with his wife Marissa in Wellington, New Zealand; their daughter Janice, a graduate of St. Edward’s University, who works in the provost’s office at UT Austin; and their daughter Sandra Hudson, a CPA graduate of UT Austin, who lives with her husband John in Houston and is a stay-at-home mom with their three sons, Benjamin, Matthew and William.
James and Patsy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June, 2012, thus capping a life of teaching and music-making for both.
James takes this opportunity to thank his lifelong friends Billy Harrell and Henry Schraub for his nomination and to the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu for election to the Texas Bandmasters’ Hall of Fame.