Tony Clines was born August 25, 1949, to Albert and Irene Clines in Ralls, Texas. His father was a cotton farmer and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. He had a brother, Charles Gammage, who was fourteen years older and his sister Sue was eight years older. Since his siblings were so much older, he had lots of time playing by himself under the elm trees outside the family’s farm house, ten miles south of Ralls.
Tony actually started school in the first grade at Caprock, located twelve miles south of Ralls. Caprock had a cotton gin, one service station, a Baptist church (where Tony was baptized at six years old after accepting Jesus as his savior), and a two-room schoolhouse. Grades one through five were in one room with one teacher and grades six, seven and eight were in the other room with the other teacher. After second grade, his mother realized that he was not learning to read and he transferred into Ralls to start the third grade. His wonderful third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wells, spent much time with him and he slowly began to catch up to the rest of his classmates.
Tony’s first experience with playing in the band was in the fifth grade under Everett Maxwell. It only lasted a couple of weeks. He doesn’t remember exactly why he quit, but it had something to do with the fact that one day the student sitting next to him in the cornet section completely filled his instrument with spit! When Mr. Maxwell discovered this it was the end of the student’s band career and Tony quit a few days later. Mr. Maxwell also decided to leave Ralls at the end of the school year.
Mr. Maxwell was replaced by Charles Watson. Tony's mother took him to meet Mr. Watson in the summer before his sixth-grade year. They decided that he would try the cornet again, but this time his parents would buy a cornet for him rather than use one of the school’s old (very old), used (very used) instruments. His parents took him to Lubbock where they bought him an Olds cornet from Earl Ray Music Company. Things went much better his second time at trying band. The next year, since the high school band was so small, Mr. Watson decided to use seventh and eighth graders in the high school band. So after only one year of beginner band, Tony found himself in the high school band. He really liked Mr. Watson and enjoyed all aspects of playing in the band. He continued to improve and earned first chair honors just before Christmas his freshman year. The band had marginal success but could never quite get over the last hurdle and make Division I ratings and Mr. Watson decided to leave Ralls after Tony's sophomore year.
The summer of 1965 was a vitally important one for Tony Clines and he didn't even know it. Hired to take Mr. Watson's place was a first-year teacher who had just graduated from Texas Tech. And, it was a woman! Barbara Sperberg (now Lambrecht) came to Ralls as band director and changed the entire course of Tony’s life. When she arrived he went into town to meet her and after a few conversations, she chose him to be drum major of the band. He was quickly drawn in by her passion for music and teaching. She was an incredibly hard worker and expected the same from her students. She did get the band over that last hurdle and won sweepstakes her very first year as director of the Jackrabbit Band. His senior year Tony was band captain and he received the John Philip Sousa band award both his junior and senior years. He also earned last chair in the TMEA All-Region Band his senior year.
During Tony’s junior and senior years, Ms. Sperberg invited Dean Killion, Director of Bands at Texas Tech, to come clinic the band. After one of those clinics, Mr. Killion asked Tony to play for him. It was not a formal audition, but soon after that, he received a letter offering him a scholarship of $50 per semester to go to Tech and major in music education. Who could refuse an offer like that? So in the fall of 1967, Tony Clines enrolled in Texas Tech as a music education major, having had one piano lesson in his life prior to enrollment and not really knowing what music theory was. Although college classes were quite a shock, Tony was absolutely carried away with being a member of “The Goin’ Band from Raiderland.” How could that many people could be in one band and how could that one band could sound like that? There were more trumpets in the Tech band than total members in his high school band! It was absolutely the most exciting thing he had ever experienced. And like in third grade when Mrs. Wells helped him catch up in academics, he was again fortunate. He was placed in the lowest music theory class, but Professor Richard Meek helped him to get his feet on the ground, and his trumpet teacher, Professor Richard Tolley encouraged him to make the most of the talent he had.
While at Tech Tony completely immersed himself in the band. His freshman year he played in the marching band, the Court Jesters, basketball band, and was first chair cornet in Varsity 1 concert band, the second band. The following year he moved up to the top band, Concert Band. During his university career, he also played in the stage band and with the symphony orchestra as well as singing in Tech Singers. He pledged Kappa Kappa Psi, the band fraternity where he was elected Best Pledge as well as Best Active and served a two-year term as president. He was elected band president and voted Outstanding Bandsman by the members of the band. But the greatest honor and learning experience of all was being selected by Mr. Killion to be drum major of “The Goin’ Band” for the 1970 football season. In those days being the drum major was like being an assistant director. The drum majors met with Mr. Killion each day before rehearsals and went over the plan for the day. The drum majors did the hands-on teaching of the marching drills which was an invaluable experience for an aspiring band director. Then upon graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1972, Mr. Killion asked Tony to stay on and be his graduate teaching assistant while working on his Master of Music Education degree. Tony has undying gratitude for Mr. Killion who had confidence in his abilities and he greatly appreciates the opportunities he gave him.
After receiving his Master of Music Education degree in the spring of 1973, Tony accepted the job of head band director at Muleshoe, Texas. The band had won sweepstakes the previous four years with Jim Harvey as director. Although that did add the pressure of expectation for a new teacher, Tony really thought he was prepared for the job. It didn't take him long to figure out that he still had much to learn, even with his better-than-most university experience. The students were great kids and the administration and parents were very supportive, but Tony was not able to get the band to the level that he and the band community wanted. In his four years at Muleshoe, he received the Outstanding Young Educator award one year and had the high school yearbook, the "Muletrain” dedicated to him his last year in 1977. His Mighty “M” Band did receive a Division I rating in marching his last year, but Tony decided it was time to start over and wanted to see a different part of the state.
In June of 1977, Tony called Jack Bell, superintendent at Robinson ISD, about the opening for a band director. Mr. Bell told him that they had narrowed their choices for the position down to four candidates, but that if Tony wanted to come down to talk to him about the job he would be glad to visit with him. After driving to Robinson and talking with Mr. Bell, Tony was told that the school board would be making their selection the following Monday night. Again, if he wanted to drive back to Robinson and interview with the board, he would be welcome to. Tony made the trip back to Robinson to interview with the school board, along with the other four candidates. All five candidates were taken to the teacher’s lounge to wait together for their turn to interview. When Tony went into the office where the interview was taking place, he was greeted by the seven board members, the school administrators and members of the band booster club. There were close to twenty people in the room and it seemed that they all had questions to ask him! After each of the five candidates had his turn to interview, all five were called back into the office together. Then Mr. Bell announced that they had decided to offer the job to Mr. Tony Clines! Tony and Mr. Bell talked again the next morning and he accepted the position. Tony often wondered what Mr. Bell would have done if he had declined.
In July of 1977, Tony moved to Waco to take over as band director for Robinson ISD. The band had not had very much success in the past, but they did have more students than Tony had had at Muleshoe. He also found out that the band parents that had been in his interview, as well as many more, were ready for their school’s band to become something that everyone could be proud of. Over the next twenty-seven years, Tony came to appreciate that there were no better band parents anywhere. That first fall many of the band students wanted to work toward getting better, but there were enough who didn’t really care that much to make things interesting.
The band nickname was “The Pride of the Blue." Unfortunately, some just didn't get the "Pride" part. Things like showing up to rehearsal on time with their instruments and music was difficult for some. Also having to memorize music for marching band and playing off parts individually was a new experience. Honestly, that first fall was pretty challenging, but Tony was consistent in his expectations and the band made great strides toward getting better. The band had always had been called to attention by a drum major shouting “BAND!” Then the band was to respond together with a loud “SIR!” Tony used this as one of his earliest lessons in pride. He would not dismiss the band from rehearsals until the “SIR!” was loud enough to suit him. And that “SIR!” could never be loud enough without every band member’s total effort. It took everyone. When the band went to the Texas State Fair for the Parade of Champions marching contest in the Cotton Bowl that fall, they came back with second place in their class. A few weeks later, thanks partly to “divine intervention,” the band made a Division I rating at UIL Marching Contest at Paul Tyson Field in Waco. Just as the band took the field for their performance, an absolute cloudburst hit! Hard, driving rain covered the field, but the band marched and played the very best that they were capable of. Receiving Division I ratings from all three judges, the band had earned its second ever Division I rating in any UIL event. The band might or might not have made a Division I without the rain, but what Tony used to build on was the fact that they had done their best IN SPITE OF the conditions. That was a demonstration of true pride.
Thanks in large part to that rain storm, the band had turned a major corner. The reward for hard work and doing the right things became more evident to the members of the band. In those first years at Robinson, Tony was able to regain the confidence he had lost while at Muleshoe. That self-confidence and the willingness of the band students to work hard enabled the band to rapidly become more successful. The band won its first ever UIL Sweepstakes award in Tony’s second year as director. Success, in turn, attracted more students to the band program, leading to the massive size of the band. For Tony’s last twenty years as director of “The Pride of the Blue," band enrollment never dropped below 200. In his twenty-seven years as band director, the band earned twenty-two Sweepstakes awards but it was primarily known for its Big Blue Marching Band. Starting in 1978, the band won first place at the Parade of Champions for seventeen consecutive years until the contest ended when the playing surface was changed to natural grass. The UIL State Marching Contest came into existence in 1979. From that point until his retirement in 2004, the Robinson band participated in sixteen of a possible eighteen state contests. They made the finals fourteen of those sixteen years, came in second place four times and won four state championships (1981, 1984, 1994, 1996.) In those twenty-seven years, the band never received a rating other than Division I from any judge at UIL region marching contest. The band performed for half-time of three Baylor University football games and one Dallas Cowboys game. The band competed in festivals and marched in parades in conjunction with the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston and the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The band competed in marching festivals in Colorado and Louisiana as well Texas. The band also marched in the daily parade at Disney World in Orlando on three occasions.
The Robinson band placed many students in the TMEA All-Region Band in Tony’s early days. When ATSSB came into existence it allowed many more band students to share in that experience and it made it possible for many to earn positions in the All-State Band. Hundreds were able to compete at the state solo and ensemble contest through the years. Many students went on to play in college/university bands including Texas Tech,The University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian University and Baylor University.
Tony Clines’ ability as a musician was not exceptional. His greatest strength was as a motivator. Tony truly loved every student he ever worked with and each of them knew that without a doubt. He cared about his students as individuals, not just as band students. He also demonstrated hard work for them; he never came to rehearsal without a plan for that day. During rehearsals he was a task master who demanded everyone’s best, but when rehearsal ended there was no need to fear him. His bands were always in good physical condition because they ran many laps when things did not go as they should. He was known to run with them to make sure they were putting forth the required effort in those laps. He was not afraid to laugh, even in rehearsals, if something happened that was funny. He was not afraid to do silly things if he thought there was a purpose to them. After every marching competition, he would have the band gather at the buses to talk about how things had gone. Parents were always welcome to attend those gatherings. When the band won first place at the Parade of Champions, he started counting the wins on his fingers at those meetings. When the streak made it to eleven, he took off a shoe and sock and threw them in the air to count eleven on a toe. When the streak hit sixteen it took ten fingers and six toes! In 1994 some of the guys in the band asked Tony if he would shave his head if the band won state. Of course, he said he would. Well after a ten-year gap between state championships, the band did win! Two days later a barber showed up at band rehearsal and shaved his head as slick as a bowling ball! Tony taught his students that band involved work but he was willing to show them that it was supposed to be fun.
Tony says that he thanks God regularly for leading him to Robinson, Texas, to be the director of “The Pride of the Blue.” He says, “It had to be God’s leading because I came here at exactly the right time for me as well as for the Robinson band.” He had not accomplished much and the band hadn’t either. Together they both “grew up.”
There are many people Tony wishes to thank for their part in his amazing career. First on the list is his parents. They were good, hard-working people who would have done anything for their children. They modeled caring for others and doing what is right, and they always supported and encouraged him and let him know they were proud of him. The two people, other than his parents, who had the most influence on his life were his two band directors, Barbara Sperberg Lambrecht at Ralls High School and Dean Killion at Texas Tech. They both saw something in him that told them that he could be a successful band director. They encouraged him and gave him opportunities to develop his leadership skills as well as his musical ability. The school administrators and board members through the years at Robinson could not have been more supportive of Tony or the band program. As the program grew, they were willing to add band staff members in order to keep class sizes manageable, especially in the younger grades. Tony knew how critical those first years in the band were for developing proper techniques which created better musicians when they reached high school band. The administration agreed and added staff when needed. Tony especially wants to thank retired superintendent Jim Smith for his outstanding leadership of the entire school district. Mr. Smith always had a positive attitude and made sure all campuses and school programs were on the same team.
Tony says there could never have been a better band parent organization than the Robinson Band Boosters. These amazing volunteers spent hours upon hours doing ANYTHING the band needed. They never tried to tell Tony what he or the band should be doing, but were always ready to do whatever project or task that Tony said was needed for the benefit of the program. Thousands and thousands of dollars were raised which funded thousands and thousands of hours riding school buses.
Tony never really liked the term “assistant directors." To him, they were just band directors. He was fortunate to have many talented, dedicated directors to work with through the years. These directors worked just as hard as Tony, but with much less acclaim. He is truly thankful to each of them for their contributions to the band program. He especially wants to thank two wonderful teachers who worked with him for over twenty years each, Anne Broaddus and Lorie Crowder.
Tony is so thankful to the thousands of students he had the privilege of working with through the years at both Muleshoe and Robinson. He thanks them for believing in him and for all the hours of work they put into the band programs. One of his greatest joys was being able to have his own children in his band. Jeffrey Paul played percussion and was percussion section leader in marching band. Daughter Kelly played trumpet and daughter Jenny played French horn and both served as drum major. Tony is sure that it was sometimes awkward having your dad as your band director but he is glad his kids participated anyway.
“The Pride of the Blue” was selected Class 3A TMEA Honor Band for 2014. Tony thanks director Bob Vetter for inviting him to conduct a piece during the Honor Band concert at the TMEA convention in February 2015. Tony thought his band directing days were well in the past, but thanks to Bob's kindness and friendship he was allowed to share in this amazing experience.
One of the first people Tony met when he moved to Robinson was Rob Gibson, who had just started to work for Holze Music Company. Rob became a very close friend and worked with the Robinson band’s high school clarinet players for several years before he became the owner of Holze Music. His work with those clarinet players played a large part in the development of the band program.
Pete Rodriguez was executive secretary of UIL Music Region VIII for most of Tony’s time at Robinson and he was always a source of encouragement to Tony. As Tony now serves Region VIII as executive secretary he hopes that he is thought of as an encourager to the band, choir and orchestra directors of the region just as Pete was to him.
1965 was a pivotal year in Tony’s life because Barbara Sperberg became the band director at Ralls. Another big event occurred that year also. Tony, a junior in high school asked Jackie Poteet, a freshman baton twirler in the marching band to go to the football banquet with him. They dated through that year and most of the next. For Tony's graduation from high school, Jackie gave him his first conductor's baton presented in a black velvet case she had sewn. When Tony moved away to go to college they drifted apart. Thirty years later they met again at the only Homecoming at Ralls High School that either had attended. They married a year later. Tony thanks Jackie for the love and support she has always given and looks forward to many years of “old age” together.
Tony Clines retired from teaching in 2004 and he and Jackie now live in Waco. His son Jeffrey Paul lives in Portland, Oregon. Daughter Kelly Thompson lives in Waco. Daughter Jenny Clines lives in Washington, DC. And, granddaughter Grace Ann Thompson lives in Waco. Tony serves as executive secretary of UIL Music Region VIII. He also is Minister of Choral Music for Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Robinson. He is a past president of the Cottonwood Creek Senior Golf League in Waco (14 handicap). And best of all, Papa (Tony) and MumZ (Jackie) spend as much time as they can with Grace Ann.