Marion West was born in 1946 and spent her first seventeen years in Dewey, Oklahoma, a small town three miles north of Bartlesville. Bartlesville was home of Phillips 66 Petroleum, and as a result, many types of retail stores entered the community, including several music stores. She was raised in the traditions of her American Indian heritage in the Delaware tribe, also named Lenni Lenape. Marion’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Longbone Skye West, was full blooded Delaware Indian. Her mother taught her the ways of the Delaware as well as what her grandfather had taught the Delaware people. Her uncle ran peyote meetings for various tribes in the area, so Marion spent some Saturday nights in a tee-pee helping her uncle at his request. People sat on Indian blankets on the ground from dusk to dawn. Near the entrance was a fire, which served a large part of the ceremony. Women were generally not allowed to participate fully, but her uncle, who ran the meeting, allowed Marion to stay in the meeting until sleep was inevitable. During the early morning hours, she would return with meat and crackers for the people. There would be a feast at noon.
When Marion was in her fourth grade music class, the class played the flutephone, and the book contained pictures of all of the wind and percussion instruments offered in band. She carried the picture of a clarinet around for the remainder of the year, knowing that the clarinet was probably the greatest of all instruments. A new band director was hired in Dewey for the following year, and he set up recruiting nights for students to sign up for band. Marion was really excited when he approved the clarinet for her to play. She began her band career that year and loved it very much. Although her family had a particular budget, her parents supported her musical pursuits as well as Santa Claus, so they rented a brand new Normandy clarinet. The new band director was Matthew Tyer, who was extremely supportive of Marion’s enthusiasm for the clarinet. He remained supportive of Marion throughout his life, encouraging her to become a band director in a career path mostly dominated by men. When Marion completed her Master of Music Education degree in 1971, Mr. Tyer called to inform her that Texas would be the place to learn how to become a band director, so she moved to Texas.
In 1959, Frank Pronio, a professional clarinetist, moved to Bartlesville to start his music career. Mr. Pronio had a clarinet performance degree from Peabody Conservatory. Marion and her parents met with Mr. Pronio to inquire about the possibility of private study. When he accepted her as a private student, she purchased a Klose clarinet book and began to study. Marion was a four year All-State student. The one conductor she distinctly remembers was Dr. William Revelli. By noon of the first day of rehearsals with the All-State Band, Dr. Revelli had released three or four students from the group for various reasons. Marion worked on being invisible that day!
Marion received First Division ratings on all of her solos performed at competitions, and started private study on the alto saxophone upon entering high school because she wanted to play in the newly organized stage band. She also made First Division ratings on the alto saxophone at contest. Mr. Tyer started a music theory course, and Marion participated in that class for two years. She wrote a march entitled Troubles Triumphant, and Mr. Tyer allowed her to teach it to the band to perform in concert. When Marion told her two teachers that she wanted to be a band director, neither mentioned that there were not many band directors who were women. They knew of one and she was very successful. One Saturday Mr. Tyer drove Marion to watch that particular woman band director teach an auditioned honor band in another area of the state. Marion was greatly influenced by Mr. Tyer, who continued to refer to her as his all time best student. Marion has always been grateful to Mr. Tyer and Mr. Pronio, and she will always love and remember them for their support.
Marion West attended the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, as a saxophone major. She was offered first chair and chose that route. Her band director, Dr. Jack Sisson, also taught applied saxophone at the university. Marion felt fortunate to be in Dr. Sisson’s band where she immediately felt safe as a musician and truly enjoyed the experience. During her sophomore year, Gary Greene was the drum major of the marching band. Marion and Gary remember Dr. Sisson with love and great respect. During her junior year, Marion studied the oboe with Richard Killmer and loved it. Because of that love of the oboe, she started her Master of Music degree as an oboe performance major at Oklahoma University. While attending OU, she also studied the bassoon with Betty Johnson, former principal bassoonist of the Oklahoma City Symphony.
During her senior year at the University of Central Oklahoma, she was named Outstanding Senior Music Major and was chosen as Senior Soloist on saxophone for a performance in concert with the band, under the direction of Dr. Jack Sisson.
Marion completed her Master of Music Education degree in 1971 at the University of Central Oklahoma. The following month Mr. Tyer suggested Marion move to Irving, Texas, where he was the band director at Bowie Junior High School. She started teaching privately with a studio of over seventy students. She was very successful as a private teacher, and in 1974 she was offered the assistant band director position at Travis Junior High School (7-8). Marion was the first woman band director hired in the Irving ISD. During her first year as the assistant, her band was named Best in Class at the Ennis Band Festival, and the band received a First Division in concert at UIL. After two years as the assistant band director with John Siebern, Marion was appointed head band director, which was actually the only band director, at the new middle school in Irving, Sam Houston Junior High School (7-8). Marion and her friends Michael Brashear and Matthew McInturf, who were both new middle school teachers in Irving, talked about band into the late evening drinking cheap coffee. They didn’t know enough to think of other more tasty drinks. During this time, she became aware of the Lake Highlands High School band program and the director, Eddie Green. Marion was convinced that she needed to learn more about teaching, so she met Jim Irwin, horn and trumpet instructor for Eddie Green. She drove many times to Richardson to study brass with Jim Irwin and watch Joe Dixon teach sectionals at the high school. Her first beginner classes at Sam Houston Junior High School were taught with the concepts that Marion learned from Jim Irwin. The Sam Houston Junior High School band placed first runner-up in the Texas State Honor Band process in San Antonio, performed at the Six Flags Invitational receiving First Division ratings, had many band parties, and received consistent UIL Sweepstakes awards under Marion’s direction.
In 1979 Tom Bennett called Marion for an interview for Richardson North Junior High School. This school was one of the feeders to J.J. Pearce High School where Tom Bennett was Director of Bands. She was elated to accept the position. Under Marion’s direction, the band’s accomplishments included being named Texas State Honor Band on two occasions, the Sudler Cup of Honor from the John Philip Sousa Foundation, and continuous UIL Sweepstakes awards. Best in Class awards at the Six Flags Invitational and the Sandy Lake Band Festival, major band parties, and regular performances in the Meyerson Symphony Center were part of the rich history of the band program at Richardson North Junior High School. Marion continued to learn from her colleagues and private teaching staff such as Tom Bennett, Billie Nero, Jim Irwin, Karen King, Joe Dixon, Kyle Crain, Clair Johnson, Hermann Vogelstein, Debby Johnson, Barbara Brazil, Don Stewart, and David Burks. She also met Eddie Green during this time, and she began learning from him by observing his clinics throughout the Richardson ISD. Eddie Green worked with the J.J. Pearce Symphonic Band on a regular basis, and she had the privilege of watching those clinics as well.
In 1991 Marion was appointed Director of Bands at Lake Highlands High School in Richardson, the school where she was first introduced to the concept of teaching band that she uses and believes in, to this day. Mr. Green came for a visit a few days prior to the first concert that Marion would conduct at Lake Highlands High School. He helped with the band and stayed for the concert. She never asked why he made the trip from Houston for those few days, but thought that his love for band and Lake Highlands High School were the motivation. He became Marion’s friend, and she loves him and will remain loyal forever. The continued tradition of excellence at Lake Highlands High School during Marion’s tenure is high-lighted by two appearances at the Texas State Marching Contest, being a finalist in the Super Southwest Bands of America marching contest in San Antonio, being a finalist in several Bands of America competitions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, being Grand Champion and Best in Class at the DeSoto Marching Classic, and being a finalist in several marching contests throughout the state.
The Lake Highlands High School Symphonic Band received awards at competitions throughout the United States, and was recognized as third runner-up for the Texas State Honor Band in 1995, a semifinalist in 2000, and second runner-up in 2004. The Symphonic Band performed in the Meyerson Symphony Center with the University of Houston Wind Ensemble under the direction of Eddie Green in 1996. The band received continuous UIL Sweepstakes awards, Best in Class awards in Texas and Florida, and under her direction, the Lake Highlands High School Symphonic Band was invited to and performed as the Friday evening concert at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago in 2001. In 2003 Gladys Wright presented the Sudler Flag of Honor to the Lake Highlands High School Symphonic Band. Marion West was the first woman to receive the Sudler Flag of Honor and the first director to receive both the Sudler Cup and the Sudler Flag.
Marion was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in the PTA, the TMEA Leadership and Achievement Award on two occasions, the Scroll of Excellence from the Women Band Directors International, and the Legion of Honor, also a national award which was given to ten band directors each year, with recognition printed in Band World magazine. Marion received the Texas UIL Sponsor Excellence Award, and the Arts and Humanities Award of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for continuing excellence in music. She also was given the TBA Meritorious Achievement Award, multiple listings in Who’s Who in Teachers and the Nobel Commendation in Teaching award. Ms West held membership in Sigma Alpha Iota in college, and as a band director, gained membership into Phi Beta Mu International School Bandmaster Fraternity. She is an Honorary Member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma.
Ms. West served and was chairperson of the Texas UIL Music Selection Committee and has presented seminars for many school districts, universities, TMEA, Arkansas MEA, and TBA. She is a member of TMEA and TBA, and is an active adjudicator and clinician.
Marion would like to thank her puppies, Elizabeth and Anna, for their patience and subdivided devotion! Since she has no family in Texas, Marion’s friends have been a cornerstone of her career, and she wants to thank Harriett Sigmon, Jim McGahee, Denis Kidwell, Tye Ann Payne, Robin Moffett, Gloria Ramirez, John Alstrin, Randy Phillips, Gregg Rinehart, Steve Madsen, Van Mathews, Scott McAdow, Karen King, Debby Johnson, Fernando Medina, Scott Taylor, Joshua Blankenship, Katie Ziere, Michael Brashear, Ramsey MacDonald, Brad Huneycutt, David Bertman, Mary Ellen Cavitt, John Benzer, Tom Bennett, Richard Crain, and Eddie Green.
Marion also thanks and appreciates her sister, Mary Louise Skye Watters, for her love and support. Mary bought beautiful clothes for Marion when she was a small girl, took her to Tulsa to see the world, bought her wonderful things during high school and college, and bought Marion a car during graduate school. Marion loves her sister and her sister’s family very much. Mary’s husband, Gilbert Watters, bought Marion her step up saxophone, a Selmer Mark VI, while she was in college. Since Marion’s father, also named Marion West, died when Marion was a sophomore in college, her two sisters and one brother stepped in to provide Marion things that a music major in college needs, including frequent care packages. She will forever be grateful for their love. Mary is her only surviving sibling and at 84 years, is a lovely and healthy person. She was listed as one of the Fifty Elders in Oklahoma by AARP, and she has received many awards during her life.
Marion retired from the Richardson ISD after well over thirty years of incredible success in teaching band and providing life changing experiences for her students. Since then, she is continuing her life long quest of learning at the Moores School of Music, the University of Houston, as an associate director under the direction of her friend and colleague, David Bertman. At the Moores School of Music, Marion and David are striving to continue the great work of their predecessors Eddie Green and Tom Bennett. Marion conducts and assists with the ensembles as well as taking an active role in the teaching of instrumental pedagogy. As always, she mentors students and staff alike. Marion’s teaching style is a unique combination of her own life experiences; she wants to help the world, one future band director at a time.
Ms. West would like to thank her past and present students for always reminding her that she needed to change and learn throughout her life. The humanity and love of all those students gave Marion a purpose and challenge to continue learning about the universe. Marion would like to thank TBA, Phi Beta Mu, and the Hall of Fame committee for this honor. It was unexpected but appreciated as a true honor.