Tom Bennett was born in Colorado City, Texas, in 1946. He is the only child of Lois and Harold Bennett. In 1949 the Bennett family moved to Snyder, Texas, where Tom’s father became head of the Snyder Chamber of Commerce. Shortly after moving, the family acquired an office supply business and ran Bennett Office Supply for over thirty years. Harold Bennett was also very involved in civic affairs, being elected both mayor of Snyder and president of the local school board. Lois was instrumental in running the family business as secretary and accountant.
Tom went through the Snyder school system and graduated from Snyder High School in 1964. He was extremely fortunate to have been a part of the outstanding Snyder High School band, directed by former Texas Bandmaster of the Year and Phi Beta Mu Hall of Fame member, Mr. Melvin Montgomery. Mr. Montgomery was Mr. Bennett’s primary motivation in pursuing a career in music education. After high school, Tom attended Texas Tech University and studied with Mr. Dean Killion. In Tom’s final year at Texas Tech, he was also fortunate to student teach with Mr. James Sudduth. Mr. Bennett graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1969. He received his Master of Music degree from Southern Methodist University in 1988 where his primary instructor was Mr. Howard Dunn.
While attending Texas Tech, Tom had the great fortune to meet and marry Suzanna Ramzy, daughter of Wade and Virginia Ann Ramzy of Odessa. Susie was an outstanding clarinet player in the Odessa Permian High School band directed by another Texas Bandmaster of the Year and Phi Beta Mu Hall of Fame member, Mr. J. R. McIntyre. Susie and Tom have two children, both outstanding musicians: Teresa, an all-state horn player at J. J. Pearce High School in Richardson and Tommy, an all-state bass trombone player at Greenville High School. Teresa is a web designer and lives in Carrollton with her husband Che and their daughter Jazmin. Tommy (prefers Tom now to be more professional) is a financial advisor for Fidelity Investments and lives in Grapevine with our other grandchild, Oscar the dog. Tom is thankful to have his wonderful wife here with him today. They have been married for forty-eight years and hope for many more. He really can’t do anything without her!
Mr. Bennett began his teaching career while still a student at Texas Tech when he started the band at Lubbock Cooper. After graduation, Tom spent one year as band director at LaMarque Junior High School. His teaching career was interrupted by a two-year obligation in the United States Army. He served in the Fourth Army Band in San Antonio and the Eighth Army Band in Seoul, South Korea, before receiving an honorable discharge in December of 1971. Mr. Bennett returned to teaching at La Marque High School in the fall of 1972 and taught in Texas public schools and universities for the next thirty-one years. After teaching in LaMarque, and prior to his retirement from the University of Houston in 2008, Tom taught in the Spring Branch, Plano, Richardson, Round Rock, Lubbock and Spring school districts. From 1988 to 1994 he was Director of Bands at East Texas State University, now Texas A & M Commerce. He was Associate Professor of Music and director of the Moores School of Music Wind Ensemble at the University of Houston from 2000 to 2008.
His Richardson, J. J. Pearce, and Spring high school bands were honored with appearances at the MidWest Clinic in Chicago in 1986 and 1999 respectively. While director at J. J. Pearce High School, his band was named the Texas Class 5A Honor Band. His Spring High School Symphonic Band was named runner-up for Texas 5A Honor Band in 1998. Mr. Bennett’s marching bands placed in the 5A state finals twice, once at J. J. Pearce in 1986 and then again at Spring in 1999. Mr. Bennett is the recipient of the Leadership and Achievement Award from the Texas Music Educators Association and the Ross Perot Outstanding Teacher Award from the Richardson Independent School District. In 2005, the Texas Bandmaster’s Association named Mr. Bennett the Texas Bandmaster of the Year.
At East Texas State University, Mr. Bennett’s symphonic band was honored with performances at the Texas Music Educator’s Convention in 1993 and at the Southwest Regional Convention of the College Band Director’s National Association in 1992. During his tenure at the University of Houston, Mr. Bennett’s ensembles performed at the Texas Music Educator’s Convention in 2002 and 2005 as well as the Southwest Regional Convention of the College Band Director’s National Association in 2002. In 2003 the International Grainger Society awarded Mr. Bennett the Grainger Medallion for Distinctive Contribution for his work on a CD of transcriptions done by Percy Grainger. This CD was the fourth in a series begun by Mr. Eddie Green and the Moores School of Music Wind Ensemble. This fourth volume was honored with a prestigious Grammy List Nomination in 2004. In February of 2006, a CD of Vittorio Giannini’s band works performed by the Moores School of Music Wind Ensemble was released internationally by the Naxos Recording Company. In 2010 David P. Burks Audio released a CD featuring the Moores Wind Ensemble . This CD, ‘Concert Classics’, includes performances of timeless works by Gustav Holst, Paul Hindemith, Morton Gould, and Karl Husa.
After retiring from the University of Houston in 2008, Mr. Bennett continued his commitment to Texas bands with an extensive clinic and mentoring schedule. He has had the good fortune to work with some of the most outstanding directors and band programs in the state and is very appreciative for that opportunity. Mr. Bennett is also extremely proud of his many University of Houston and East Texas State University students who have become successful band directors. Those students are the joy of Mr. Bennett’s professional life. Tom is exceedingly grateful for the two men who have had a lasting and continuing influence on his career, Mr. Melvin Montgomery and Mr. Eddie Green.
Mr. Bennett remembers his father, Harold, relating a story that from Tom’s earliest years in Colorado City. When the family attended a football game, Tom would cry during the game because he only wanted to be there at the half-time. The story continues that one time, when Tom was about three years old, the Colorado City football coach came to the Bennett household for a social visit. The coach picked Tom up, looked at him and said, “I think you will make a pretty good quarterback,” at which time Tom immediately responded, “I’m going to be in the band!” Tom Bennett never wanted to be anything but a Texas band director, and he has certainly enjoyed the ride.