Burnet school bands shouldn’t miss a beat with new directors

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Burnet High School and Burnet Middle School each have new band directors. Hired to lead the high school was Nick Stephenson. The new middle school director is Allen Andrus. The hirings and several other band-related changes were made at the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District board meeting June 17.

Superintendent Keith McBurnett admitted to pressure when hiring a replacement for Jason Jones, who resigned as the high school’s band director to accept the same position at San Angelo Central High School. Jones guided the band, which is part of the Esprit de Corps with the flags corps and Highlandettes drill team, to University Interscholastic League sweepstakes awards in consecutive contests from 2015-19. In 2014 and 2018, the band qualified for the state marching contest. In 2014, 2016, and 2018, it was a UIL area marching band contest qualifier and finalist.

After an interview with Stephenson, the hiring committee and McBurnett were put at ease.

“This is one of those hires that’s extremely important,” McBurnett said. “It sets the tone for the entire program. Anytime you hire a leader of an organization or group or coach, their marching orders is to take the group even further.”

Stephenson was the band director at Panhandle Independent School District and twice guided the band to the UIL state marching contest finals, finishing sixth in 2017 and 12th in 2018. The Panhandle band was a sweepstakes band the past two years under Stephenson’s leadership.

“That instantly speaks to you that he knows how to get the best out of students,” McBurnett said.

Stephenson’s resume, along with his experience directing a band to top 15 finishes, immediately impressed the hiring committee and McBurnett. Stephenson brings more to the table, however. His demeanor and ability to connect with people, especially students, is what made him stand out, the superintendent said.

“He has a strong focus on kids and challenges,” he said. “We felt like he brought the entire package. Much like any coach, he spends countless hours with kids. He’s teaching music and marching and teaching life skills.”

The board also approved the hire of Ian Young as assistant band director at the high school. He’ll join fellow assistant Joe Cox, who is returning.

Andrus, the new Burnet Middle School band director, served as the assistant band director under Steven Myers. Myers is leaving for the same position at a Leander Independent School District middle school.

Brad Jones from DeSoto McCowan Middle School is the Burnet Middle School’s new assistant band director.

The school district also announced it will purchase a wrapped semi-trailer to transport band instruments and equipment for the 2019-20 marching season. The district has allocated $53,000 the past three years in funding above the band’s base budget for new instruments. In the 2016-17 school year, the district spent $77,000 outside of the band’s base budget on new uniforms.

In saying goodbye to Jones, McBurnett credited his leadership and noted it’s always difficult when an outstanding educator leaves to go elsewhere.

“Jason Jones did an outstanding job on building the Esprit de Corps, on building the focus on spirit, pride, and honor,” he said. “I hate that we have to lose outstanding people. Jason has done such a wonderful job.”

McBurnett noted the Esprit de Corps has been growing in popularity.

“The Esprit de Corps has such an outstanding history of excellence,” McBurnett said. “We’re super excited we’re able to offer outstanding opportunities for kids.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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