EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Nick Stephenson fell in love with band the moment he stepped into his middle school band hall when he was learning the trumpet in the seventh grade. In fact, it was there, at that young age, that he made a decision.
“I knew, since seventh grade, that I’d be a band director,” he said. “The whole atmosphere of band, the teamwork, and the sense of family it is. All those things. I knew I’d always want to be a part of band.”
It’s the same type of environment Stephenson plans to foster as he takes over as Burnet High School band director. The school board approved his hire during its June 17 meeting, and he was quickly on his way to Burnet.
He takes over for Jason Jones, who accepted the band director position at San Angelo Central High School. Stephenson previously was the Panhandle High School band director and even knew Jones, who had also served as the Panhandle band director before heading to Early and, eventually, Burnet.
The two kept in contact and even talked about what they were doing at their respective programs. When Jones announced he was leaving Burnet, Stephenson decided to inquire about the position. And Burnet officials found in Stephenson the right person to head the high school band.
While taking over a program is always a challenge, especially one as successful as Burnet, Stephenson is no stranger to success. He guided the Panhandle band to two UIL state marching contest finals. He also knows he’s part of a team, one that includes other assistant band directors, student-leaders, and students as well as the Highlandettes drill team led by Caity Clinton. The Burnet Esprit de Corps is comprised of the band and the Highlandettes.
Building on the success of the already strong band program doesn’t overwhelm Stephenson.
“With a program like this, the thing is to keep the momentum going,” he said. “My first year is going to be a lot of observation, really watch the student-leaders, and how they do things.”
Stephenson hit the band hall running this summer. The band has already held a color guard camp, and the percussionists were just finishing up a week of camp July 19. Then, the student-leaders come in July 22-23 to help get things lined up before one more band registration day July 24.
On July 29, the full band returns.
From the students he’s met so far, Stephenson loves their attitudes.
“You have kids who are excited about going out on this black pavement with the heat and, you know, the humidity,” he said. “And they’re excited about it. They want to get out there. I can’t wait.”
The Esprit de Corps will perform “The Spark” by Dan Montoya as its marching show this year. While it’s not a state year for Burnet (the UIL alternates which classifications can advance), it doesn’t mean they aren’t serious about performing at the highest level.
Beyond the region and area contests, the Esprit de Corps is competing in two USBands competitions and one other marching festival.
“There’s really never an off year,” Stephenson said.
Which explains why, for band directors, there’s never really an offseason. Since becoming a band director, including two years as an assistant band director, Stephenson can’t recall a period of time away from the band hall. He credits the teachers and mentors he’s had along the way for helping him foster that love for band. It’s the same thing Stephenson plans to pass along to his students.
“I don’t know what I would have become without my band family,” he said. “I want the kids to feel that. To know when they walk in here, this is their band family.”