Duncanville High School Band Receives 2019 Exemplary Band program Award
Duncanville High School Band was awarded the 2019 Exemplary Band Program Award at the annual Texas Bandmasters Association convention in San Antonio July 25. The prestigious award is presented to the Texas band that has consistently produced an exemplary band program for an extended period of time. One high school and one middle school are chosen each year. The 2019 Exemplary Band Award was presented to Duncanville High School Band Director David Brandon at an awards event held at San Antonio Convention Center.
For more than 40 years, the Duncanville High School Band program has been considered a model for other high school programs in Texas and the United States. The band program flourished under the leadership of directors Dr. Tom Shine (1980-2010), Brian Merrill (1983-2003), Jeff King (1988-2015) and David Brandon (1996-present).
DHS Wind Ensemble has been the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Region 20 Honor Band every year since 1980, placing in State Finals ten times. The Wind Ensemble was selected as the 1998, 2004 and 2008 TMEA 5A Honor Band, the only band to win three 5A Honor Band awards. Recently, the Wind Ensemble was the second runner up in the 2019 6A Honor Band Competition. The Wind Ensemble has been invited to perform at The Midwest Clinic twice and was the featured ensemble at the All Japan Band Conference in 1998.
During those same years, the Duncanville Marching Band was awarded the Sudler Shield of Honor, and was selected as the University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Champion in 1986, 1990 and 2002. It is the only large classification (5A/6A) band in Texas to advance to the State Marching Band Contest every year since 1988. The 400-member Duncanville Marching Band also received first division ratings at UIL contest for more than four decades.
DHS Band Director David Brandon
Focus Daily News recently asked Band Director Brandon about the band’s continued success. Here are some of his answers.
I first started with Duncanville ISD as Director of Bands at Byrd Middle School and also worked with the high school marching band as an assistant in 1996. I became head director at DHS in 2015-2016.
An important lesson I learned from working with Dr. Shine is how to treat kids; how to get the most out of them in a positive way. Dr. Shine set up the program for kids to be individually successful and to be recognized for that success. The results of the full band all flow from the success as the kids as individual musicians. Our job is to help the students achieve the maximum abilities that they have.
The Sudler Shield of Honor is one of the highest recognitions a band program can receive. This award is given to marching bands recognizing world class excellence. The Sudler Flag, which Duncanville also received, recognizes concert bands that have demonstrated particularly high standards of excellence over several years.
Many hours of practice are involved for DHS band members, especially those in the Wind Ensemble and marching band. Marching band rehearsals begin in August and in the first week can go from 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. The students are required to spend less time practicing once school starts, but still have Friday night games and Saturday contests. Director Brandon says he has never added up how many hours all that entails, but it is several hundred without a doubt.
When they’re in concert band, their practice time varies per student. They’re not required to fill out reports saying they have practiced for X number of hours. If they are able to play for directors successfully, that proves they’ve been practicing.
The student is in control of his or her own achievement level which makes it more valuable. Band members have to follow the UIL rules ‘no pass/no play’ just like athletes. They can’t be failing a class at the end of a grading period.
Band Practice Begins In Sixth Grade
Sixth grade is the ideal age for students to start learning their instrument, because at that point they’ve grown enough to play their instruments. Learning an instrument is a skill and skills have to be consistently practiced over time. They need to start early because it is a specialized skill set for each instrument. There are districts that start in fourth or fifth grade, but our band kids start in sixth grade in Duncanville.
My favorite moment is rehearsing the band because our kids are so teachable. They are hungry to learn. That is the greatest joy in teaching. When they come back in 30 years and say – my experience in band allowed me to be successful in my career.
“I want to acknowledge every director who has come through Duncanville who has helped us to build, maintain and improve the Duncanville band. If it wasn’t for the middle school directors doing outstanding work, there wouldn’t be a high school program worth speaking of,” Brandon said.