October 23, 2014
As many of you know, I attended the University of Oklahoma for my undergraduate degree in Music Education. I knew when I was only a freshman in high school that I wanted to become a band director and help students like my 2 band directors helped me. In fact, I have said numerous times before that my high school Head Band Director, John Standridge, has truly helped shape me into the person and especially the teacher I am today. However, there is also another mentor in my life who has helped me become who I am today.
One of the many performing opportunities I had as a high school student was an annual All-Region band clinic at Stephen F. Austin University in Nachodoges,TX just 1 hour from my house in Arp. While at this All-Region Band clinic in 1998 I was able to be under the direction of Mr. Brian Britt, who at the time I had no idea who he was. He was the associate director of bands at SFA and had grown that band from the bottom up. He was the clinician for this All-Region Band my freshman year and I was able to see him in action. He was so encouraging and uplifting to us all and even when there were times of great distress in our ensemble sound, he would encourage us while he helped us correct the problem. Despite this being an honor group, we had issues with the music and he treated us like we were in his own college band. It felt so cool as a high school freshman to be treated like a real adult. That years' All-Region Band concert was the moment I decided I not only wanted to teach band, but that I want to be Brian Britt. I wanted to teach college band and help young students grow in music and help them become ambassadors for music.
As the years in high school progressed, I had countless other opportunities to be in Mr. Britt's band at SFA; rather it be for All-Region or All-Area band and even SFA Summer Band Camps. In 1999, my junior year of high school, Mr. Britt left SFA to teach in Round Rock. I remember thinking "Well, now SFA is out of the question (for college)". In all reality, I did not want to go to SFA because that is where 70% of the graduates from Arp High School went and I just always felt like I could do more and go elsewhere. It was during my junior year that I began looking at colleges and auditioning for scholarships. I traveled the state of Texas and the Southwest United States in general auditioning with my saxophone for major universities' saxophone studios and Music Education departments.
During the following 12-15 months I was offered numerous scholarships, including offers from the University of Texas (God forbid... Ha, He knew what He was doing), The University of North Texas, Ohio State University, The University of Michigan as well as full ride offers from Texas Tech University (I hated Lubbock) and Stephen F. Austin University. I knew I wanted to "Go Big or Go Home" so I decided to venture out to and audition at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.
My grandpa played football at OU in the late 1940s and my family and I were Sooners through and through; however, I do remember going through rebellion phases for a little while! My parents and I headed to Norman and ventured around the campus and town. It was an amazing place and the people, ALL THE PEOPLE were such a joy and were so kind and friendly. Literally, everyone we talked to or had any interaction with treated us like we were one of them, even though we were from "Texas".
I audition for Gail Hall and other members of the audition panel and left Norman thinking this is where I belong. At this time, in late 2000, Mr. Britt was still teaching in Round Rock, TX and I thought I would never see him again. In February 2001 while I was playing in the ATSSB All-State Band at TMEA, I ran into Mr. Britt at one of the music exhibits. I approached him and before I could even say "Hello, Mr. Britt" he was already saying "Hello there Kellie. How are you?" I could not believe that he remembered me. Wow, I wasn't even one of his students. I was merely a student in the honor bands where he was the clinician and he remembered ME by name. Wow! I was in total awe!
It was March 2001 and I was having a real hard time deciding where I wanted to go to college. I had received numerous offers as stated above and really felt like OU was where I was supposed to be but the money and the full-ride offer was in Lubbock at Texas Tech. My grandfather, father and family members in general kept pushing for OU and I eventually decided that Lubbock was too far, and too boring, and decided to go to OU. I began the long process of paperwork and scholarship acceptance and it was during that time that I learned the OU's longtime Band Director Gene Thrailkill was retiring and OU decided on hiring an alumni of its' own, Mr. Brian Britt. That sealed the deal... I was going to be a SOONER for sure now.
In the fall of 2001, I packed up my things and moved to Norman, Oklahoma to begin my journey as a Sooner. I had high hopes of being in the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band as well as all of the many other amazing adventures I would have while at OU. I had to report nearly a week earlier than the other college freshman for the Pride of Oklahoma Marching camp. It is here where my life would truly change forever. This camp took 2-3 days as I recall and I made great friendships with other freshman and sure enough, on the very 1st day Mr. Britt once again called me by name and remembered me as if I was one of his own. I was at home!
It was a Thursday night around 6:00pm and I headed over to Catlett Music Center where the results for the 2001 Pride of Oklahoma auditions were being posted. I remember waiting outside in the dreadful heat for the sign to be posted. Finally, feeling as if it took hours, the large white sign with 280+ names became visible. I looked down the Alto Saxophone line and I didn't see my name. "Kellie Klingsick"... I was silently saying as I continued to look for my name. I skimmed down the list about 4 times before stepping back and realizing I was NOT ON THE LIST. I then looked for an "alternate" category and didn't see my name there either.
The walk back to the dorms was perhaps the longest walk I can remember in my life. I cried and cried AND CRIED. The dreams I had for myself and for my college career had been blown up and I was left in the midst of the pieces. I remember telling my parents "Forget it, I will just come home and go to TJC with the rest of the people in Arp". In fact, I began packing the little amount of stuff I had unpacked and got settled in before my dad said what would shape the rest of that year at OU; "Kellie, why are you giving up? This is just an audition... just one person's opinion. It does not define who you are. If you want to be a band director and go to OU then stay. Who cares if you are not in this band. You can be in other bands." I'm sure I rolled my eyes in disgust but in the long run I decided to stay at OU. And it was one of the best decisions of my life!
I spent the remainder of that weekend going to the Freshman Orientation that I would have missed if I was in The Pride because of the rehearsals. I was able to get the true freshman experience that I would not have been able to have otherwise. That fall semester was very difficult for me because I felt left out and excluded, especially in my Music Education classes because all of the others knew each other better and were in The Pride getting to share all of the amazing experiences with each other.
That semester I was in the Symphonic Band, which was under the direction of Mr. Britt so I was still able to have the experience I had dreamed about, which was to one day be in Mr. Britt's band. Sure, it was not the band I wanted it to be but it was a band... of his! I remember a Monday in October after OU had just come back from a road game in Lincoln, Nebraska where The Pride took a small pep-band and Mr. Britt came up to me that Monday in Symphonic Band rehearsal and said "Hey Kellie, I talked to your uncle Mike this weekend at the game. He was so excited for you to be at OU and for you to be in the band. I told him I was excited for you to be at OU too". Later that day Mr. Britt came up to me and said "Kellie, I know you are disappointed at the outcome of this semester but trust me this will make you a better teacher. And isn't that what you came to OU for?" (I can only imagine there was another teenage eye roll at this point too)
But his words have never been more true. That audition and that disappointing semester have made me such a better person and teacher. I have been able to share in students heartaches as they, too, have fallen short of their hopes and dreams. I now have been teaching for 10 years and during those 10 years I have been on many interviews, many of which did not work out in my favor, but I cannot forget the words both my dad and Mr. Britt shared with me; "This will make you a better person".
The remaining 3 years at OU were some of the best of my life and I eventually was able to live the dream I had so desperately wanted to live. In 2002, I was selected to The Pride of Oklahoma playing tenor saxophone and then again in 2003. I was able to perform and travel with this Nationally renowned and prestigious band at numerous events and games including a National Championship game, 2 BCS bowl games and march in the Rose Parade on New Years Day. The experiences I had during these 2 years were some that I would NOT trade for the world and some I still look back on today as I tell my 2 children these great stories. I spent these 3 years learning from the man I so desperately wanted to be like and I graduated OU a year early thanks to the intense dedication that I gave my freshman year since I did not make The Pride in 2001.
I left OU in 2005 and hit the ground running, so to speak, in my career as I became the head band director of a small school in Southeast Oklahoma called Bowlegs. I then became the band director at Grove School in Shawnee where I was able to take the band program from a dying 50 students to over double its' size to 108 when I left in 2011. The past 4 years I have not been teaching band and once again not living the "dream" I created for myself but I am living a different dream. My "New York Yankees job",as Mr. Britt calls it, was and will always be teaching band and eventually college band but right now I am serving in a different type of "Yankees" job... I am a mom!
And isn't that the best job anyway!
And isn't that the best job anyway!
Mr. Britt left OU in 2012 to serve as a Fine Arts Director in Richardson but during his leave from OU, The Pride felt major turmoil and this brought down everyone from the students, the School of Music and The College of Fine Arts, the fans and especially the alumni of The Pride of Oklahoma. Finally in October of this year, this turmoil came to a stand still as OU President David Boren finally came to terms with how bad it really was and the former Pride director stepped down. At that point Mr. Britt was re-hired and The Pride of Oklahoma was restored. This made me especially happy because I, among hundreds and thousands others, am a life that was touched and changed by Brian Britt. It really hits home because one of my very 1st students I worked with while at Grove is now a freshman at OU and in The Pride. It brings a smile to my face EVERY TIME I think about him being able to have the same type of experiences and life-changing moments as I did.
Welcome Home! It's great to have you back! I will never forget you and I thank you for the 4 wonderful years I had at OU! You helped me become who I am today and for that I am forever grateful! You are an amazing teacher, leader and mentor and overall just a class act! BOOMER SOONER!
God is Good... All the time!