Experienced directors guide LHJH Band
By DANA DELGADO
Jared Clarkson was perfectly content in Wimberley when Liberty Hill came calling two years ago.
His family was settled in, his kids were happily enrolled in schools there, his wife, Callie Clarkson, was a teacher in the district, and he had made positive strides in building a program over nine years as the Wimberley Middle School Band Director and as the Director of the high school marching band.
“I learned a ton,” Clarkson said.
The Texas State University graduate who grew up in Muleshoe outside of Lubbock said he had to learn a lot in a program that was basically a one-director operation where there was skeletal support, but it was home and he was making the most of it. Previously, he had assignments at Madisonville and Cedar Park and taught private lessons before relocating to Wimberley.
So, when Liberty Hill High School Director John Perrin, who oversees the band programs throughout the district, approached him about applying for a position as the Junior High School Director, Clarkson didn’t have to think twice. Alright, maybe twice but not three times.
“I knew the quality of kids in Liberty Hill,” said Clarkson, who had also known Perrin professionally for years. “Liberty Hill had always had a strong middle school program, got good ratings at contests and always had a reputation as the ones to beat. I was very excited and flattered when the opportunity at Liberty Hill presented itself and now that I’m here, I plan on continuing that reputation.”
Now in his second year as the LHJHS Band Director, Clarkson is excited about leading an emerging group of 112 band students in grades 7 and 8 and a program that has a lot of promise. He is also the First Assistant High School Director, directs the LHHS Concert Band, and is a brass instrument specialist to students from sixth grade including his son, Taylor, who is learning to play the trumpet.
“It’s very much a team effort here in Liberty Hill,” said Clarkson, adding that he appreciates and enjoys working with and collaborating with the band directors from throughout the district. “We work out our roles so it’s very beneficial to students. There is a lot of detail to instruction and students are much better for it. There’s lots of professional sharing and kids recognize it and appreciate it. It’s been fun!”
Eighth grade percussion student Finn Collie said he is enjoying his band experience.
“Band is more than I thought it was going to be,” Finn said. “It’s been fun. It’s rewarding when you spend all that time practicing and it all turns out well and people appreciate what you play. I am learning a skill that will last a lifetime.”
Fellow classmate Grace Mabry, a seventh grader, said she shares Finn’s sentiments about being in the band.
“It’s so cool to play together,” she said. “I started with baby steps and after the first song – wow! I felt like I learned a different language.”
The LHJH Band opened its performance season with spirited pep rallies in the gym. The band will be playing at a Veteran’s Day celebration on campus before turning attention to the spring University Interscholastic League competition.
“We have split the band into two bands at the JHS,” added Clarkson. “We expect high standards and push procedures. It’s very much a growing process and preparing them for high school.”
Clarkson, who is in his 15th year of teaching band, says his experience has been beyond description.
“I never really wanted to do anything else,” he said. “What a ride! The greatest joy is having kids be successful and grow into responsible adults. I’ve had over 100 students go on to study music in college. It makes it all worth it.”
Clarkson grew up in the award-winning band at Muleshoe High School, which has had 37 straight years of sweepstakes.
“There is lots of pride,” said the former high school band president. It was at Muleshoe where Clarkson honed his skills as a brass player that would open the door to other opportunities. As a high school junior, he auditioned and was selected to play with the national Marine Corps Field Band and competed with a drum corps. He also played his way into the Symphonic Band at the former Southwest Texas State now Texas State University without an audition much to the surprise of his director and colleagues.
While in college, Clarkson was the baritone section leader in the marching band where he said he “had a lot of fun” but owed all his success to his band directors along the way which were “really good.”
Joining Clarkson and the LHJH Band this past January is Andy Anker.
Anker has been teaching since 2002 and most recently had been teaching in Dallas as well as playing with the Dallas Wind Symphony along with performing at playhouses and musicals. The Minneapolis native is a percussion specialist who participated in drum and bugle corps in both high school and college. He earned his Master’s Degree in Performance from Southern Methodist University.
Anker is the Second Band Director at the junior high where he directs the Symphonic Band. The new LHISD band director also oversees the percussion program at the high school with an emphasis on the drum line and color guard and handles the logistics for the marching band.
“Things are going good,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it. There is a wide spectrum of talent to work with and get to go to all the campuses. At the JHS we introduce students to the Fight Song and work on fundamentals and developing good habits. These kids are really working hard. They are the best band kids I’ve ever had. I feel lucky.”
The percussion specialist said that the keys to becoming a good band player are self-motivation, practice and the willingness to take on more responsibility. He says he is seeing more students at different levels taking initiative, including at the high school.
“Underclassmen are getting excited about the future and taking on a lot more ownership,” he said. “It’s a steady climb with instruction, good students, good parents, and a good administration.”
Anker comes from a family of teachers and says he has been fortunate to work with students of varying ages. He said he enjoys working with all of them. His father was a band director for 39 years and now plays professionally in musicals.