DAVID LEE LAMBERT
David Lee Lambert was born on September 17, 1948, in Nacogdoches, Texas, the only child of Fred and Dorothy Lambert. Fred Lambert was a career sergeant in the United States Air Force and David’s mother Dorothy was a bank bookkeeper. Because his father was in the military, the family moved around a lot as his dad was transferred from base to base. They lived in San Antonio, Fort Worth, Sumter, South Carolina, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana, before finally settling back in Nacogdoches. Neither of his parents were musically inclined. However, his dad did play the radio and his mother did make a joyful noise singing in church on Sundays.
It was in Shreveport, Louisiana, where David first became interested in music when his sixth grade class from Queens Borough Elementary attended orientation at Lakeshore Junior High School. The only thing that David recalls about that day is standing behind the timpanist as the group observed the band class. He knew immediately what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, when school started the next fall, the band director at Lake Shore Junior High assigned him to euphonium because there were already enough drummers enrolled for that year. David was disappointed but began his musical career on euphonium. As luck would have it, one of the drummers dropped the class at the end of the first grading period and David immediately asked to be moved to percussion. His request was granted and his quest to become a musician had truly begun. He remembers that his grandmother made him practice thirty minutes every day, on a practice pad, of course, before he could go outside to play with his friends. But even with practice he wasn't very good. Truth be told, he was pretty bad. The following year the family moved to Bossier City, Louisiana, and David enrolled in Green Acres Junior High School where he met his new band director, Doug Peterson. At Green Acres David played the crash cymbals. What he lacked in skill, he made up for with enthusiasm.
The family returned to Nacogdoches the following year when his father retired from the service. He entered high school as a ninth grader and became a drummer (not yet a percussionist) in the Nacogdoches High School band, under the direction of Kenneth Caldwell, (HOF class of 2001.) It was in that first semester at Nacogdoches High School that he met the person whom he credits for setting him on a path for his career. Stephen Lee, a senior percussionist, saw David’s promise and began working with him every day after school on the first thirteen rudiments for snare drum. Under Stephen's tutelage, David began to excel. He still played cymbals in the marching band, but he was getting better every day on snare. That year he made a superior rating at solo and ensemble contest with "The Downfall of Paris," a class two snare drum solo. David has never forgotten Stephen Lee and the gift that he gave him. Based on this experience, David has always advised teachers to be patient with beginning students because one never knows when that spark might appear and that student will excel.
Later that summer, David's parents purchased his first drum set from Jimmy Hudgins, (HOF class of 2004,) who had retired from teaching and was working for Tatum Music Company. David began performing with a rock group called “The Guv'nors.” The band became very popular and performed almost every weekend through high school.
While attending band camp at Stephen F. Austin University the summer between his freshman and sophomore year in high school, David met Danny Prado, a percussionist from Hemphill, Texas. Even though they only saw each other at summer band camp and area tryouts, they immediately became close friends and have remained so throughout their careers as music educators. Danny enrolled at SFA at the beginning of David's sophomore year, and they were percussionists together for three years. Their friendship and those years working and performing together greatly influenced David's growth as a musician.
In Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1964, when he was in high school, private teachers were hard to find, so David became his own critic. He would record his competition etudes and solos on a small reel to reel recorder and play them back, noting what he should work on the most. He first made the region band his sophomore year. In his junior year, he had another new band director, Neal Grant, (HOF class of 2012,) and in that same year David made the All-State Band, conducted by Frederick Fennel. Upon high school graduation, he enrolled in the music school at Stephen F. Austin State University where his first class that summer was Fundamentals of Music. David was determined to become a real musician. It was at Stephen F. Austin that he met his most influential teacher, mentor and friend. Mel Montgomery, (HOF class of 1994,) became the band director and the percussion instructor his sophomore year. David was having the most fun he could possibly have in those years. He performed in the jazz ensemble, the symphonic band, played with various bands on the weekend and studied advanced music theory and composition with Dr. Richard Coolidge. He lived and breathed music. During his senior year another important event in his life occurred. While attending a band social in the college band hall, he saw a beautiful girl with long blonde hair and a killer smile coming down the stairs. Sheryl Gary would become his wife and best friend.
Upon graduation from SFA in 1971, David was hired as the band director at Thomas J. Rusk Junior High School, which meant he was also the assistant band director and percussion instructor at Nacogdoches High School. In the evenings, he would attend graduate school classes at Stephen F. Austin University. That first year of teaching did not go well. He remembers getting on the podium for his first class, working the band and thinking, "That's about all I know and it only took fifteen minutes." However, things did get better. He went with the high school band director, Troy Lilly, almost every Saturday to Tatum Music Company in Longview, Texas, where he was mentored by other band directors in the area. He listened attentively as they all talked shop. Directors such as John (Pete) Kunkel, (HOF class of 1999,) Waymon Bullock, (HOF class of 2002,) and Val Rose, (HOF class of 2008,) were only a few. Their conversations were most enlightening for this young teacher.
In 1972, David and Sheryl were married. Upon her graduation with a major in elementary education and a minor in music, her father, James Gary, the band director at Dulles High who had recently moved to administration, called and said there was an opening at Dulles Junior High School in the Fort Bend school district. The director at Dulles High School, James Larson, wanted to hire a percussionist. Finally...a percussionist! Although it was a hard decision for David to leave East Texas, he and Sheryl made the move to Sugar Land, Texas, in January, 1974. It was the best thing that could have happened to them.
When David went to work for the first time that January, he found that he was really assisting at the high school and the person assigned as the high school assistant was really teaching the junior high school bands. Of course the entire staff assisted with all the bands, at least in theory. David was assigned to teach the jazz ensemble and the non-varsity (concert) band. James Larson, the head director at the time, introduced him to the jazz band and left it to him. His first task was to create a competition band from this large group. He held the auditions and had made the assumption that all the saxophonists actually played saxophone. After the auditions were posted, he found the other two directors laughing. They told him that most of the saxophones he had chosen were actually clarinetists. David guessed their technique had won the day.
The jazz ensemble began competing that spring and immediately began placing at almost every competition they attended. That year the non-varsity band received a Sweepstakes award for their performance at the UIL Concert and Sightreading events. In the years to come, the jazz ensemble continued to be successful. However, David knew that when the competition included Conrad Johnson's, (HOF class of 2000,) Kashmere High School jazz ensemble and Ronald Thornton's, (HOF class of 2012) Forest Brook High School jazz ensemble, the best the he could hope for his students would be third place…and it happened just that way.
In 1976-1977 the jazz ensemble went to Hawaii for ten days on a tour with several other jazz bands. The tour was organized by Dr. Joe Bellemah, (HOF class of 1992,) director at Texas A&M, Kingsville campus. The trip was totally paid for through fund raising. The community strongly supported this endeavor and the band had more than sufficient funds for the excursion. The students were scheduled to perform one day and be off the next. Upon arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii, David rented two large vans and a station wagon, so on the off days, the band members were seeing the sights on their own or taking a tour. It was a great experience for everyone involved.
In the summer of 1976, James Larson, head director at Dulles High School, accepted the position of band director at Tarleton State University, and David was named the head director at Dulles High School. David knew his limitations. He saw himself as a good musician, percussionist and motivator, but he needed people who could do things better than he in certain areas. In 1976, he employed Becky Bower-White to teach trumpet and Lester Kegley to teach the low brass. In 1977, David called Mel Montgomery for the name of a good clarinet teacher. Mel told him to call Richard Cammack, who was working at a men’s store in Tyler, Texas. David knew Richard and his talent and hired him immediately. Later that same year, David added Larry Matysiak to the Fort Bend staff and got him to the high school as soon as he could. When Willowridge High School opened in the fall of 1979, his then associate director, Joe Gutierrez, moved to take that lead position and David was able to persuade Bill Duggan to move from Missouri City Junior High to be the associate director at the high school. All the changes in Fort Bend ISD finally put Bill Duggan, Larry Matysiak, Richard Cammack and David working together at Dulles High School. They made the perfect team.
During his tenure as lead director, the band received Sweepstakes awards for superior ratings in UIL Marching, Concert and Sightreading events every year. The band won Best in Class at Six Flags, Astroworld, Six Flags over Texas and a Gold Medal Award in Orlando, Florida.
As the Fort Bend ISD continued to grow, David’s administrative duties increased. Bill Duggan took over the jazz band and David spent mornings working in the administration building and the afternoons teaching the symphonic band and doing sectionals. In the spring of 1982, David was called to the deputy superintendent’s office and told that the district needed a full time Director of Fine Arts. He was offered the position and reluctantly accepted because he still enjoyed teaching. During the next twenty-one years, the district grew quickly. With the help of Mel Montgomery, Gary Garner, (HOF class of 2003,) and Eddie Green (HOF class of 2005,) David was able to employ outstanding teachers as each new school opened. David always maintained a philosophy about building a good district- wide program that his friend Richard Crain (HOF class of 2001) shared with him: “Hire good people, provide them the resources and stay out of their way.” He tried to do just that. David saw teaching as an art and knew that everyone did it a little differently. He didn’t care how each director taught or what method they used as long as the students were successful and enjoyed being in the programs.
David was responsible for implementing the orchestra program shortly after accepting the position as Director of Fine Arts. That program began as string orchestra classes with only sixth and seventh grade students. With each year the next grade level was added until the program was complete with grades six through twelve. Today it is one of the premiere programs in the state and recognized nationally for its outstanding programs thanks to that philosophy: Hire good people, give them the resources they need, and stay out of their way.
Under his leadership as Director of Fine Arts, Fort Bend ISD created a cadre of exemplary music teachers. During his tenure, the school district’s bands and orchestras were recognized with three honor performances at the Texas Music Educators Association’s (TMEA) conference and received fifteen invitations to perform at the Midwest (Band and Orchestra) Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.
David officially retired in 2004 but is still an active consultant and clinician; he is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, and past president of Alpha Chapter of the International Bandmasters’ Fraternity, Phi Beta Mu. He is past president of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association and is presently serving as Executive Secretary for University Interscholastic League Music Region 17 and Executive Secretary for Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity.
Mr. Lambert has received numerous personal awards. The Texas Music Administrators Conference named him Texas Music Administrator of the Year and the Texas Thespians awarded him the Outstanding Administrator’s Award in 2001. The Texas Bandmasters Association presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Music Administration in 2003. David was inducted into the Stephen F. Austin University Bandmasters Hall of Fame in 2009 and received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Nacogdoches High School in that same year. In 2011, he was presented the Outstanding Music Alumnus Award by Stephen F. Austin University’s School of Music. Now in 2014, his induction into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame is the highlight of his career.
He and his wife, Sheryl, have been married for forty two years. They reside in Missouri City, Texas, and have two sons, Jason and Jonathon. David would like to thank his wife for her support in every endeavor he has ever pursued. Nothing could have been accomplished without her at his side. He would like to also thank the marvelous students whom he had the pleasure of teaching and all the directors who worked with him over the years and stayed with him throughout his career. They made his job easy.
“Hire good people, give them the resources and stay out of their way.”
David is honored to have been selected as a member of the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.