Hall of fame tunes in Thoede

Former RHS band director receives highest honor

Don Thoede was at Rockdale from 1969-1981, including nine years as Big Blue Band director. He’s now a member of the Texas band leaders Hall of Fame. Don Thoede was at Rockdale from 1969-1981, including nine years as Big Blue Band director. He’s now a member of the Texas band leaders Hall of Fame. Don Thoede, who directed the Rockdale High School Big Blue Band to five straight Sweepstakes Awards, has received the highest honor bestowed upon Texas secondary school directors.

Late last month, Thoede was inducted into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

That award, bestowed by the Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity, has only been given 249 times over the past four decades.

Thoede was inducted July 22 in San Antonio in conjunction with the annual convention of the Texas Bandmasters Association.

BIG BLUE—In 1969 Thoede was named Rockdale Junior-High School band director, where he was mentored by the legendary Bill Grusendorf.

“He taught me more about how to teach music to kids than any other band director I know,” Thoede said.

In 1972, Thoede became the head band director. During the next nine years, the Class 3A Rockdale High School Band earned dozens of awards.

Bands received numerous first division ratings at UIL contests, and the Big Blue Band received its first UIL Sweepstakes Award in 1977.

After that year, all of Thoede’s RHS bands were awarded UIL Sweepstakes Awards, highest bestowed by the UIL.

Thoede started the jazz band program at RHS.

“Each year, almost all of the students who participated in UIL solo and ensemble competition would receive first division ratings,” he recalled. “Many of the students were selected to the All-Region band, and jazz ensemble member Lee Thomason was selected to the UIL All-State Jazz Band.”

In the spring of 1980, about 140 Rockdale band members and sponsors went to Mexico City.

That same year, the band third in the Class AAA UIL State Marching Contest and received its fifth straight Sweepstakes Award.

CLIFTON—Thoede was director of the Clifton ISD band program in 1987 and remained until his retirement in 1997.

Under Thoede’s direction, the Clifton High band earned nine consecutive UIL Sweepstakes Awards, won numerous marching festivals, and placed in the state finals of the TMEA Honor Band and the ATSSB Outstanding Performance Series several times.

In addition, Clifton’s band was a top five finalist at the UIL State Marching Contest on four occasions, placing fifth, fourth, third, and second. The second-place band missed the state championship by one point.

In the 10 years Thoede was at Clifton High, his bands participated in 30 UIL Region competitions and faced 90 judges. His bands received 87 first division ratings and 3 second division ratings.

In past years, Thoede has been a clinician for both marching and concert bands throughout the state and has presented workshops on marching and concert bands.

For 16 years he has served as the first and only state chair of the Association of Texas Small School Bands Outstanding Performance Series Competition, and was instrumental in writing the rules and guidelines for the competition.

He has also judged numerous contests in the past 25 years, including all classes of the UIL Area Marching Contest for 15 consecutive years.

HALL OF FAME— To be eligible for consideration in the Hall of Fame, a band director must have produced and maintained an outstanding and consistent award-winning band program in the Texas public schools as well as having a long, successful career.

Hall of Fame members must be over the age of 65 and retired from active teaching.

The Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame is housed in the state headquarters of the Texas Music Educators Association in Austin where pictures of all elected members are displayed.

Portfolios outlining the accomplishments of each director as well as recordings of each director’s band are available via digital archives at pbmhalloffame.php.

A standing committee of the fraternity accepts nominations once a year and then pursues an evaluation process of each candidate prior to election by the active membership.

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