Announcing Our New Conductor, Jerry Steichen!

Conductor Jerry SteichenBy This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Courtesy of the Longview News-Journal

The Longview Symphony’s new conductor, Jerry Steichen, wants to tell people about his favorite concert in the symphony’s lineup for its 51st season.

Only he can’t choose.

“They’re all my favorite,” he said.

Some details still are being worked out and some surprises are planned, but the season that kicks off in September will include special guest performers, opportunities to get to know the symphony’s musicians, concerts away from the Belcher Center, hometown flavors and — cue the drum roll — a Disney concert.

The symphony board named Steichen conductor this year after a search that began in summer 2018 when former conductor Gene Moon resigned.

Steichen isn’t new to Longview. He previously served 10 years as the music and artistic director for the former Opera East Texas.

The season he outlined — and his philosophy for how the symphony should operate — follow the board’s desire to move the ensemble in a direction that makes it more approachable. His vision is for a symphony whose concerts children are welcome to attend — or come to a dress rehearsal, instead. It’s one in which the symphony can be found at events downtown or at the new arboretum after it opens. It’s one that embraces different genres of music, where the symphony might perform a concert focused on video games or movies or of a specific composer.

“It’s not your grandparents’ symphony. It’s your symphony no matter who you are and what age you are and what kind of music you like,” he said.

Board President Justin McFaul said the Longview Symphony has for the past few years been looking for a balance between keeping alive the classical music of which some people are fans, while attracting new audiences — families with children, for instance, who need to know it’s OK to get up and go to the bathroom during the concert, if needed.

“Nobody on stage is going to be concerned,” he said, adding that the symphony is “not just a date night event.”

The change Steichen is bringing to the Longview Symphony isn’t isolated.

“What’s happening in international symphonic circles — you can no longer do what’s considered a traditional program,” with an overture, concerto and symphony, he said. “No one’s going to come to it. ... My point of departure is, we’re going to take the symphony to the people.”

Steichen is a native of Tonkawa, Oklahoma, a town he described as “smaller than Carthage.” The son of a high school band director and a mother who supported his love of music, his family listened to all kinds of music, he said. He still believes in the lessons of attending school in a small town.

“When you grew up in Tonkawa, you played piano, you sang in the choir, you played in the band, you took social square dance,” said Steichen, who also revealed he tap danced at the Utah Symphony in 2018.

At halftime in Tonkawa, some football players marched in the halftime show in their football uniforms.

“We also are in every sport. If you’re not on the field, you’re playing in the band or keeping stats for the basketball team, or fixing broken shoestrings for the football team. ... Nobody ever said music was exclusive of everything else. You didn’t choose when you were in eighth grade the one thing you were going to do. You did it all.”

That lesson translates to life.

“No one can exist without both, and it feeds your soul to do everything. Your body needs the workout. Your soul needs the music. Your brain needs the academics. We are not something that exists in the Belcher Center.”

Steichen still recalls the lesson he learned from his piano teacher who came to his house each week for six years — a woman who “dressed to the nines” and who would sit down in a chair and say to him, “So, entertain me.”

“That’s how my lessons started for six years. I thought music was like this opportunity to share whatever place you were in emotionally,” he said. “I still think that about music. I still think music is an opportunity to tell stories with any size ensemble to any size of audience.”

Read the full article at the Longview News-Journal.

Guest Conductors, 2018-2019

Tom MenschThe Music of Journey: Conductor Tom Mensch

Originally from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Tom Mensch is the Minister of Instrumental Music at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. Mr. Mensch has served as director of bands and professor of trombone at Tyler Junior College, as band director at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, and as Director of Bands at Mirabeau B. Lamar High School in Houston, Texas. He is currently the director of bands at Whitehouse ISD.

Tom has conducted numerous low brass and band clinics throughout North East Texas and has been the clinician for several TMEA Region 4 and 21 concert bands, as well as the Four States Honor Concert Band. Most recently, he was honored by the Tyler Youth Orchestra and inducted into the Noted Circle, and was also inducted into Phi Beta Mu, the International Bandmasters Fraternity.

Mr. Mensch is an active performer on tenor trombone with the Rose City Brass Quintet, the Rose City Trombone Quartet, Lead Trombone with the Souled Out Jazz Orchestra and the East Texas Jazz Orchestra, is the Principal Trombonist with the Longview Symphony, is a freelance musician throughout the East Texas Area, and maintains a teaching studio of talented collegiate and high school trombone students. He was a featured soloist with the Stephen F. Austin State University Trombone Choir, the Stephen F. Austin State University Symphony Orchestra, the East Texas Symphonic Band and with 1A State Honor Band, Carlisle High School. As a member of the Metro Big Band, he has performed in Japan, Guatemala, Russia, Ukraine, Scotland, Brazil, and Finland.

Mr. Mensch earned his Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the Pennsylvania State University in 1996 and earned his Masters Degree in Trombone Performance from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2009. Tom is a member of The Texas Music Educators Association, International Trombone Association, College Band Directors National Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, and Green Acres Baptist Church. He is an artist for Jupiter XO instruments.

Tom Mensch is happily married to his wife Heather, who is also a professional bass trombonist, and they have a dog named Zoe.

Tom WebsterA Very Merry Night: Conductor Tom Webster

Dr. Thomas R. Webster came to ETBU in 1999 as the Director of Bands and assumed the position of Dean of the School of Communication and Performing Arts in 2001. As Dean of the School of Communication and Performing Arts, his administrative leadership role involves supervision of the three academic departments, Communication Studies, Music, and Theatre Arts, and one service program, Media Services. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he teaches courses in music theory and music/worship ministry; he also teaches applied clarinet and saxophone.

Webster has served as President of the Texas Association of Schools of Music, as Region IV College Division Chair for TMEA, and is currently an on-site accreditation evaluator for the National Association of Schools of Music. He holds memberships in the College Music Society, the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference, the Music Theory Society, Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma, and Sigma Alpha Iota. His most recent academic presentations include Multigenerational Worship in Today’s Church (ETBU Worship Summit, 2016), Developing Program Identity and Constituent Support Consistent with Institutional Mission (Academic Chairpersons Conference, 2016), Music Program Advancement through Partnerships with Community Arts Organizations (NASM 2012), and Music Career Advising and Implications for University Administrators: A Dean's Perspective, (College Music Society, 2012).

As a church musician, he served churches in Kentucky and Texas, including the First Baptist Churches of Longview, Lubbock, Gladewater, Brownwood, Early, and Marshall; and Hurstbourne Baptist Church of Louisville. He continues to serve as a supply and interim worship leader and as a consultant to search committees as they seek music and worship staff for their churches.

  • Ph.D. in Fine Arts (Instrumental Conducting and Literature), Texas Tech University
  • M.M. (Instrumental Conducting), Texas Christian University
  • B.M. (Church Music), Howard Payne University
  • Additional study, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and B.H. Carroll Theological Institute

James SnowdenCelebrating 50 Years: Conductor James Snowden

Dr. Snowden received his bachelor's and master's degrees from SFASU in 1965 and 1968 and his Ph.D. in music from the University of Colorado in 1975. He studied conducting with Elizabeth Green, Richard Burgin and Franco Autori (both assistant conductors of Toscanini), and Anshel Brusilow. His advanced conducting study was with Fritz Reiner of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted the Symphonies of Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Fla. and the Houston All-City Symphony, and was founder and conductor for 10 years of the Longview Symphony Orchestra.

He served for 10 years as music director of the Longview Community Theatre and coordinator of orchestras of the Longview Public Schools, established the Longview High School Orchestra and subsequently took it on a 10-day European tour, founded the Lubbock All-City Orchestra and originated the “Music and Architecture” series as conductor of the University of Tulsa Orchestra. Also at Tulsa, he established the first music literature courses and served as supervisor of student teachers in the public schools. His band at Judson Jr. High received the Texas Honor Band, Class CC Award, the first East Texas band in history to achieve this. As music director of the Longview Community Theatre, he conducted “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Camelot,” “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” “South Pacific,” “Annie, Get Your Gun,” “Brigadoon,” and “Carousel,” among others.

Dr. Snowden founded the Longview Symphony Orchestra and conducted it for ten years, growing it from a group of local musicians to full symphonic status, including collaboration with area and nationally recognized guest artists; the initiation of the LSO Concerto Competition; joint performances with the Kilgore College Chorale, the Longview Civic Chorale, and the Longview Ballet Theatre; and fully staged productions of “Peter and the Wolf” with the Longview Junior League.

He also founded and served as director of the Torchlight Music and Ski Festival in Crested Butte, Colorado for ten years—a competition for high school bands, orchestra and choirs. In 1999 he founded the Tyler Homeschool Band at the request of a large group of parents, and served as board member of Opera Longview.

After retiring as director of bands for 10 years at Pine Tree ISD, where he won numerous Sweepstakes Awards and placed a school record for the number of students winning regional, area and All-State honors, he served as music prof. with the U.T. Tyler and East Texas Baptist University. He also served as music director of the Artsview Childrens’ Theatre.

Snowden founded the East Texas Symphonic Band in 1988 (now in its 31st season) and has been its only conductor. Honors include “Texas Leadership and Achievement Award” from TMEA, “International Men of Achievement,” “International Who’s Who in Music,” “Who’s Who in Texas Education,” “Personalities of the South,” and “Who’s Who in America,” among others. He has done over 50 arrangements for wind band and various brass ensembles. In 2014, he was honored as Distinguished Alumni, SFASU School of Music. Awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll for Outstanding Community Band in North America. 2015 Phi Beta Mu—Texas Bandmaster Hall of Fame.

As an avid scuba diver—holding the certification of PADI Divemaster, he pursues hobbies of big game hunting (published an article on the Swedish Mauser rifle), skiing, mountain hiking, world travel, and canine obedience training. Most recently, he served as President of the Judson High School Alumni Association.

Fred AllenMay the 4th Be With You: Conductor Fred J. Allen

Fred J. Allen is a music teacher, conductor, arranger, composer, and author. His teaching career spans over 40 years, and included posts as Director of Bands at two different universities and in two public school districts. At the university level, he taught numerous courses in the music education and wind-conducting curricula, including conducting lessons, wind literature, rehearsal techniques, instrumental methods, and orchestration, in addition to conducting duties with the wind ensemble. His teaching was recognized in 2012 with the Meritorious Achievement Award by the Texas Bandmasters Association.

Allen is a native of Longview, Texas. He played in the bands of Paul Stroud and Jimmy Yancey before moving into the Longview High School Band under the baton of John “Pete” Kunkel. He also played in the LHS orchestra under Dr. James Snowden, as well as having played two seasons in the Longview Symphony, 1970-72.

As an arranger and composer, Allen has published several pieces for band, orchestra and flute choir that have drawn upon his experience in teaching in the public schools. These works have been performed frequently at conventions and festivals across the United States and internationally. He has several commissioned works in progress.

Allen played principal clarinet with the Ft. Worth Civic Orchestra for five seasons, was bass clarinetist with the Irving Symphony for three seasons, and played clarinet in the Irving Symphony Woodwind Quintet for six years. He held the piccolo position with the Abilene Philharmonic for six years and played both flute and clarinet in several community bands. As a woodwind specialist, he has performed professionally at Opryland, USA and for the Ice Capades and the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, as well as over forty musicals and operas. His first opportunity to perform as a multi-woodwind musician was in the pit orchestra for the Longview Community Theatre production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 1971.