Pryor High School has been around for about 102 years. Pryor High School Band has been around for 100 of those years.
In 1919, Grand Canyon National Park was created. The first transatlantic flight was made (non-solo, not Lindbergh). Drinking alcohol was banned in the United States. Kappa Kappa Psi, the National Honorary Band Fraternity, was established at Oklahoma A&M College (now OSU) in Stillwater.
Also in 1919 (or 1920?), some instruments were purchased for a new band at the recently organized Pryor High School.
Fast-forward 25 years, past the Depression and its recovery, up to 1945, a couple of weeks before Germany's surrender in World War II. We find Robert O. Williams directing the Pryor High School Band in the 1945 Spring Band Concert
. George Tilly, who would later be the president of the First National Bank, played a trombone solo.
Around the same time, Don Webster, a future Pryor Band director, was in the much smaller Deer Creek High School Band, along with Floyd Moyer, who would be band director at Fairfax, Idabel, and Okmulgee.
Jesse Mae Bewley was a pianist with the band from 1945 to 1948. She played a Chopin piece in the 1945 spring concert, Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata in 1946, and an original composition in 1947. She was drum major in 1948. Her father, Raymon Bewley, would later serve as mayor of Pryor. Among the band members of 1948 were John Wilkerson (percussion), Haskell Lee Gaither (clarinet), and Dick Cameron (cornet).
If you read through the concert programs you may run across a lot of names you recognize. For example, I was pretty surprised to learn that my junior high English teacher's daughter played one of my favorite Beethoven pieces, long before I was born. It's also interesting to see the music that was played then. Much of it is recognizable today.
In the 1964 coronation concert, Kenny Grass was a tenor sax player, drum major, All State Band member, John Philip Sousa Award winner, and the escort to senior attendant Judy Holt. He went into music education, was band director at Broken Arrow, then professor Kenneth G. Grass, Director of Bands at the University of Tulsa.
Ken Grass, drum major, celebrating the ground breaking of Markham Ferry Dam in 1964.
50 years later in 2014: The Pryor Band drum majors, Don Webster, and two of his former students, Ken Grass and Roy Jackson.
There are dozens of former PHS band members with interesting stories, but it would be pretty boring to list them all and I'd inevitably leave out the important ones. So I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader. Here are some old concert programs, most with a list of band members.
The old band room, near the junior high school.
In 1966, the Pryor Band did some serious fund raising for a trip to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. They marched in the Cotton Bowl parade and at half time of the game. It was the first of many trips for the Pryor Band (I think).
The band recently played at the Chicago Heritage Festival. At Chicago, the band received a gold ratings for concert band, symphonic band, and a percussion ensemble, and the symphonic band received 3rd place in class 1A at the competition.
The 1968 6th-grade band was Pryor's best 6th grade band that year, with Chris Graves on cornet.
The Oklahoma All State Band is a highly prestigious group. Potential members play difficult, individual tryouts, and the large majority of those who tryout don't make it. There is a wall in the Pryor band room with photos of the All State Band members throughout the years. A few have made it for two or three years, but not many.
Each one of these All State Band members put in a lot of work.
Chip Cooper made All State Band in 1968, 1969, and 1970. Here is a recording of the 1969 All State Band
, with Pryor Band members Chip Cooper, Donna Self, and Barbara Webster.
Marching contests have been held in Pryor, from time to time, at least since the 1960s. More recently Band Day has been held annually for quite a few years.
Here is a video of the 1969 Pryor High School Band
in marching contests at Pryor. To finish each half time show, the band would go to the west end of the field and come out spelling PHS while playing the Pryor fight song (Notre Dame Victory March), and the crowd would always stand and clap. This was taken on 8mm film with no sound. It was really boring that way, so I added some music from the future (the Notre Dame Victory March), and some from the past (Sousa's band playing Stars and Stripes).
Some of the band concerts were held in the old gymnasium...
...which was recently demolished...
...about 50 years after the old high school was demolished following a fire.
These are the Pryor High School Band directors for the past 75 years:
Robert O. Williams, 1945-46 (and possibly earlier)
B.F. Ellis, 1947
Ed Gowan, 1949-50
Gilbert Briggs, 1951-52
James Girard, 1953-59
Don Webster, 1959-1970
David Westgate, 1970-1976
Randy Hurst, 1977-82
Roy Jackson, 1982-2015
Kevin Speakman, 2015-
Roy Jackson, 1973 PHS graduate, was director for 33 years. He has been instrumental (pun intended) in building and keeping the Pryor Band the outstanding organization it is. He regularly helps with the band today. Among his hundreds of students were 10 of Don Webster's notorious grandchildren over a continuous span of 15 years, a testament to Mr. Jackson's endless patience and perseverance.
Mr. Jackson received the John Philip Sousa award as the outstanding band member in 1973.
Here's a recording of Mr. Jackson's 2009 Pryor High School Band playing at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. It's an outstanding performance for a high school band.
1 - Introduction
2 - Longford Legend, first movement
3 - Longford Legend, second movement
4 - Longford Legend, third movement
5 - Urban Dances
If you have a chance, it's worth stopping by the Pryor band room to view the awards the band has received over the years.
There are quite a few "Sweepstakes" displays, for bands that earned a superior rating at state contests in Marching, Concert, and Sight Reading, a notable accomplishment for the director and the students.
Better yet, you can see the band itself. The 2020 coronation concert is February 11th, and the all-band concert is May 5th. State band contests are in Jenks on April 14th. Here's the 2019-2020 Pryor Band schedule
In 1960, the Pryor High School Band began honoring the outstanding senior band member with the John Philip Sousa Award, a continuing tradition that has lasted 60 years. These are the Pryor High School Band members who have been honored with the award. We'll have to wait until next month to see who the 2020 recipient is.
1960 Ginger Caves
1961 Dwight Strawhun
1962 Karen Whitemack
1963 Cecil Agnew
1964 Kenny Grass
1965 Jim Medlock
1966 Randy Irwin
1967 Don Berkemeyer
1968 Boyd Clark
1969 Pat Medlock
1970 Chip Cooper
1971 Brent Berry
1972 Anne Schaefer
1973 Roy Jackson
1974 Bob Webster
1975 Shirley Biggs
1976 Samson Doolin
1977 Mark Cooper
1978 Brenda Silkey
1979 Donna Gustafson
1980 Shawn Beree
1980 Scott Morgan
1981 Deanie Dunavant
1982 Carolyn Kiesel
1983 Stuart Matthews
1984 John Redmond
1985 Rustin Polk
1986 Alan Dailey
1987 Tye Robison
1988 Traci Warren
1989 Lance Wilcox
1990 Cristina Wingard
1991 Doug Booher
1992 Trisha Short
1992 Wendy Thomas
1993 Christy Brannon
1994 Carolyn Hutchinson
1995 Sara McClung
1995 Erica Wheat
1996 Brenda Johnston
1997 Kendall Hanson
1997 Michael Blackwell
1998 Adam Anderson
1999 Dixie Stone
2000 Bobby Gorbet
2001 Ashlee Jackson
2002 Laura Otto
2003 Brian Werkman
2004 Grant Latta
2005 Aimee Lee
2006 Krisha Foster
2007 Michelle Barney
2008 Melissa Gorbet
2009 Kelsey Raus
2010 Sean Webster
2011 Patric Bias
2012 Lindsey Trout
2013 Ashton Conley
2014 Ashtin Johnson
2015 Jeffrey Helmuth
2016 Courtney Stott
2017 Seth Hobbs
2018 Jillian Gore
2019 Saige Martin