CARL LEE SOUTH
Lee South was born in 1939, the third child of Ralph and Lola Lee South of Clyde, Texas. With sister Sylvia and brother Lynn, he had plenty of help learning how to be a kid during the war years. Both good students, his siblings had Lee reading pretty well before the first grade, while Sylvia was becoming a pianist. The family lived in Clyde, then Baird, then Abilene, and finally settled onto a farm south of Abilene in the Wylie school district. Lee started school in Clyde, attended second grade in Baird, and third and fourth grades in Abilene. Lynn took beginning clarinet in the fourth grade in Abilene. At that time, Lee decided that band might be very nice, but clarinet would not be his chosen instrument. Lee was in fifth grade when the family moved to the Wylie district, and there was no band program there.
Wylie was a rural district, and most interests at school centered on athletics and agrarian pursuits. Sylvia continued her piano lessons, Lynn got involved in athletics, and Lee enjoyed almost everything except piano and athletics. 4-H was interesting and many of his friends had livestock projects, so Lee happily pursued horseback riding, raising pigs, and showing capons and pigs at the local livestock shows.
Just before high school, Lee learned that Wylie was going to have a band. He was excited about joining the band even though many of the other beginners would be much younger. The band classes were taught for the first two or three years by part-time teachers who were full-time music students at one of the three colleges in Abilene. Progress was painfully slow, because the young teachers missed many classes. Lee learned to play trombone from an Easy Steps book with the positions written in – “by the numbers,” you might say.
When band director Dwight Tomb came to Wylie, things changed drastically for the better. Band became not only fun, but exciting. Soon the band began playing in the stands at high school football games and then at pep rallies. A set of used uniforms was procured, and the band began to develop its identity.
Lee was invited to play in a mostly adult military style band. The Abilene V.F.W. Post 2012 band was made up of local band directors and other musicians who enjoyed playing marches and light concert music. South loved the challenge of Sousa, Hall and Fillmore marches and even with his limited knowledge, learned to play them. Band became so much fun that Lee decided that he would like to become a band director. It was not until he was in college that Lee learned how much he did not know. After failing the music department's entrance examination at McMurry College, Lee was given a semester to catch up with the other students. With extra help from Dr. Raymond “Prof” Bynum, Lee caught up in less than six weeks.
Lee enjoyed his four years in the McMurry band, and learned about literature and showmanship from one of the masters. He became marching band right guide, band president and was voted most valuable member his senior year. However, he had never attended a band contest and knew that there was a lot that had to be learned and experienced in the world of competition and school band.
Lee South began his teaching career in the fall of 1961 in Aspermont, Texas. He had just graduated from McMurry College in Abilene the previous summer. Lee, his wife Mary Lou, and their two small sons, James and Richard, moved into a house next door to the superintendent of schools. Superintendent Huffman and his wife looked after the young family as if they were their own, and Mrs. Huffman stayed with the children during the days while Mary Lou worked at her office job in Abilene.
In February of 1962, at Lee's first TMEA clinic and convention in Dallas, a small group of administrators from Abilene ISD invited him to move back to Abilene to teach. The death of an administrator in Abilene had created a shift of personnel resulting in a band director vacancy at Mann Junior High School. Prior to their appearance at the convention, the Abilene people had already visited with Superintendent Huffman and cleared the way for a mid-year move. South believes that it was the influence of Dr. Raymond T. “Prof” Bynum that steered the search committee in his direction.
The South family arrived in Abilene just a few weeks before UIL contest. Mann Junior High School was a new three year school in North Abilene, which had opened in the fall with just the first two years of students. Madison Junior High was an identical school on the south side of Abilene that opened under the same conditions.
The director at Madison was Warren Thaxton, who helped Lee get situated in the new job at Mann, and offered any help that might be needed. South was fortunate to receive the mentoring that every young director needs. Warren's persistent guidance helped Lee succeed at Mann and throughout his teaching career. Superior ratings began the next year.
During the three years in Abilene, part of almost every Saturday morning was spent in the coffee room at Caldwell Music Company on Grape Street in Abilene as directors from the area met to discuss band issues and listen to recorded band music. Gary DeShazo provided the space and coffee, and these “seminars” often lasted into the afternoon. Daughter Stephanie was born during the Mann Junior High years in Abilene.
After three years of teaching, and a family of five to look after, the lure of business and its accompanying compensation persuaded South to join Chicago Musical Instruments. Richards Music Corporation had just sold its assets to CMI and the Reynolds and Martin factories in Cleveland were closed.
A new facility was opening in Abilene and the equipment from the closed factories was moved to Abilene to manufacture Reynolds, Olds, and Martin band instruments. Although the work was challenging and rewarding, it was not teaching. After only a few months, South realized that human resources, customer service and quality control could not compare with the joy of helping a young person discover that each day with music is a happier day. After one year away, he went back to teaching.
South's first high school teaching experience was at Comanche High School in 1965. A festival clinic with Bill Woods helped the Comanche band earn a superior rating in concert and sight reading. During that year, Lee attended master’s level classes one evening per week at Howard Payne University, where he met Wayne Tucker. Wayne was in his first year of teaching at Brownwood Jr. High School. As the year progressed, Lee helped Wayne prepare his own band for his first contest. Wayne would accompany South in a move to Carrollton the following year.
Before the end of the school year in 1966, South requested an interview with Superintendent Newman Smith regarding the band director opening at Turner High School. At the ensuing interview, there was a little talk about band and the direction of the Turner program and then the superintendent asked South to spell three words. South recalls spelling the three words, now forgotten, and being told that he would be a contender for the job as band director. As South left the interview he was given the necessary application form and was told that he would be notified after a decision was made. After a week or two, South was notified that the Carrollton-Farmers Branch School Board had voted to hire him.
Formerly known as Carrollton High School, the newly built R. L. Turner High School had experienced fast growth and had moved from class 2A to 3A to 4A in the shortest possible time. This growing band had the opportunity to hear some of the state's top bands at Region III contests. With emphasis on individual musicianship, solo and ensemble participation, and with help from Warren Thaxton, Joe Frank, and Eddie Green, the program improved, and each year the number of students qualifying for the State Solo and Ensemble contest grew.
South started a private instruction program and soon one of Claire Johnson's Turner High School students became the first Turner all-state band member. Superior ratings in concert and sight reading, the first in the school's history, soon followed. The Turner band performed at Hemisfair '68 in San Antonio. The bands at Turner and its two feeder junior highs were growing quickly and after three years of asking for additional personnel and three years of being denied, South decided to look into the Irving High School band position which had just opened. The following year Turner High School added two assistants to the band staff.
South applied for the position of Director of Bands at Irving High School, and began teaching in Irving in 1970. At that time, private music instruction in the schools had not been allowed in Irving. The district had just hired Woody Schober to be the music supervisor and South, hoping that a change in policy might be possible, persuaded two private teachers from Turner to accompany him to Irving. Jerry Brumbaugh taught woodwinds and Joe Dixon taught brass. The need for private teachers grew, and soon the Irving district began to allow private lessons at the schools before, after, and during the school day. As a result, more Irving High students achieved the honor and joy of participating in All-State Band.
Three years later in 1973, Glen Oliver, who had just completed student teaching at Irving High and graduated from North Texas State University, joined the faculty as Assistant Director of Bands.
When South came to Region III, he had no idea of the learning climate there. It soon became apparent that a high level of performance was expected and encouraged. The Region III band clinicians were often renowned conductors and teachers, and after Friday evening rehearsal the clinicians and directors would convene in a large hotel ballroom or meeting room for snacks, refreshments and conversation. The refreshments and snacks were provided by Cline Music Company and possibly others.
This informal format was frequently followed: after the crowd gathered and all had been served, the clinician would give a short talk. The subject would be his own choosing but usually the clinician would speak of times past and how things were done and perhaps how ideas and methods developed and changed. Following that initial talk, questions and answers would continue, sometimes for hours and much could be learned by just listening. Often the questions would be as informative as the answers. South recalls such sessions with W. Frances McBeth, John Paynter, Harry Begian, and H. Robert Reynolds. All who were present felt the strong spirit of camaraderie and an atmosphere of learning and sharing prevailed.
During those years, South received guidance from Eddie Green, who invited Lee to his rehearsals at Lake Highlands Junior High School and to a planning session with his private teaching staff. Green visited many of South's rehearsals in Irving and helped South develop planning and teaching strategies.
Bill Marocco was the band director at Crockett Jr. High in Irving and, as the primary feeder school for Irving High, sent many well-taught young musicians into the Irving program. When Bill moved to Copperas Cove High School, Gary Wilkes filled the Crockett position. Gary had been teaching private lessons on bassoon and saxophone. Shortly thereafter, Austin Jr. High opened to feed Irving High School, and a recent master’s graduate from North Texas State University, Mike Brashear, filled that position.
The Irving High band performed at the opening of Texas Stadium in Irving and at other Dallas Cowboys halftimes, played at the opening of D-FW Airport, and presented a concert at the Four States Bandmasters Convention. The band also competed at a high level at the Six Flags Festival, Buccaneer Days Band Festival, the South Coast Festival, Disney Magic Music Days, the Tri-State Music Festival at Enid and the Texas State Wind Ensemble contest.
The South family enjoyed summers in Gunnison, Colorado, where Lee and Mary Lou earned their masters degrees while the entire family took advantage of the host of family activities available in the Rocky Mountains. Lee, James, Richard and Stephanie all played in the Western State College summer bands.
James, Richard and Stephanie all played in South's band at Irving High School. The South family hosted a band party in their home after each UIL event for several years. Mary Lou, with the help of a neighbor who also had kids in the Irving High band made literally hundreds of pizzas over the years. Band was certainly a “family thing” for the Souths and Lee counts having his own kids in his band as one of the highlights of his teaching career. A source of pride for Lee is the number of former band members who have become music and education professionals. Some are band directors, general education teachers, music teachers, professional musicians and other professionals in the music industry. They all make Lee proud to have been in their lives for a short time.
In 1980 Lee left the Irving High School bands in the capable hands of Glen Oliver and began as Director of Bands at Tarleton State University. While at Tarleton, South helped dedicate the new Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center and helped to charter the Mu Theta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Lee also began to receive invitations to conduct honor bands, and performed numerous clinics for high school bands in the area. After two years at Tarleton, South moved to Sherman High School.
At Sherman High School, Lee was assisted by Richard Knoll, a former Irving High School drum major and Southern Methodist University graduate.
Lee returned to Irving High School in 1987, as Glen Oliver left to pursue business interests. Glen later returned to the Irving school district, and in 1994 South stepped away from Irving High School and spent the remainder of his forty-three year teaching career teaching string orchestra at Travis Middle School, beginning strings at Lamar Middle School, and beginning brass classes at various middle schools in Irving. South also assisted the band directors at several middle schools.
Lee retired completely from teaching in 2004 and continued to serve as adjudicator for the next eight years. As of 2014, he is still an active clinician and student teacher supervisor. He is also a participant in Alzheimer's research, volunteering for scientific research projects at UT Southwestern, UT Dallas, and the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas. He is an avid motorcyclist and fisherman, and enjoys spending time with his family at Lake Fork and in Irving.
Lee became a member of Phi Beta Mu in 1971 and has attended many of these induction ceremonies. He is grateful to Bill Woods and the Hall of Fame committee for this honor. All who teach or who have ever taught music believe that music enriches the human experience. Lee believes that being a Texas band director is an honor in itself. Even more, being a Texas band director with a supportive and loving wife and family, who has been selected for the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame, is a blessing indeed.