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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 at 8:42 PM

Whitesboro High names Jesse Speer new Head Band Director

Whitesboro High names Jesse Speer new Head Band Director
JESSE SPEER

Beginning this fall, the Whitesboro High School Bearcat Band will be under new leadership with the recent hiring of Head Band Director Jesse Speer.

On the heels of a State Championship win, longtime Whitesboro High School (WHS) band director Charles Gardner announced he was leaving the district. In June, Speer was announced as his replacement.

“I’m super excited and a little nervous – those are some large shoes to fill,” Speer said. “But I love teaching students and I love teaching music. This job is the perfect opportunity for me.”

Speer lives in Whitesboro with his wife Amber (who was recently hired as the new WHS choir teacher. Read more about that in next week’s issue.) The two met while earning their bachelor’s degrees at Southeast Oklahoma State in Durant. They’ve been music educators ever since.

Speer has a long history of a successful career in music education. His journey began at Collinsville, where he fell in love with the community and with teaching music. After five years, he pursued new challenges and moved to Bells, then Bridgeport, then S&S and on to Honey Grove, where he led his band to a 10th place State finish. But the commute was beginning to take its toll, and Speer needed to find something closer to home.

“When the Whitesboro position came open, I knew I had to go for it and see what happens,” Speer said. “I felt that if this is what God wants, then He’ll push doors open. It’s been an interesting journey. I’m hoping that this is where I’ll retire.”

After being hired in June, Speer spent some time at the high school visiting with the students. He attended the band’s pre-summer camp at the end of May where they teach incoming band members marching and music fundamentals. During that time, Speer was able to work alongside staff and begin the transition process for the coming school year. 

“The kids have been amazing,” Speer said. “They’ve been really open to a new director and have been welcoming and supportive.”

Speer also appreciates the role that Austin Nestler, Whitesboro Middle School band director, has played in this time of transition.

“Mr. Nestler’s been great about answering questions and filling in the gaps,” Speer said. “He’s a great liaison between us and the students and parents. So far, it’s really been a great transition.”

Since then, Speers has been preparing the band hall for this season’s students. This year’s marching band show, “When the Dust Settles,” will visually and musically tell the story of a homestead during the Great Depression. 

“It harkens back to the 30s and 40s and shows us an era when times seemed impossible. It’s a story of perseverance, reminding us that in the end hope will prevail,” Speers said. The music and theme had already been selected by the time Speers was hired, but he’s happy with the selections.

“It features music from one of my favorite composers, Aaron Copland. It’s going to be a fantastic show,” Speers said.

It’s no secret that the Whitesboro Band has a long-standing history of success and prestige. 

“Whitesboro has a huge legacy of amazing band programs,” Speers said. “I feel humbled and fortunate to be part of it. I’ll hopefully hold the same standard of excellence that the community and town have for the band program while still putting my own spin on it.”

With years of success culminating in last year’s State Championship win, many wonder what the future looks like for the WHS band.

“Ultimately in everything I do, my goal – especially for students -- is to be better today than yesterday,” Speers said. “My bands have always been competitive. I’m familiar with the State arena, and I fully anticipate continuing the tradition of sweepstakes and State. This band has a great chance of doing every bit as well as they always have.” 

Speers aims to keep in place all of the great work that has already been done for the Whitesboro band programs. There are currently several contests on the schedule before the band even competes at regionals. Speers would like to add other aspects to the program, like more emphasis on solo and ensemble participation and possibly starting a jazz program. As much as Speers is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Whitesboro, he is most excited about working with the students.

“The kids in Whitesboro are special,” he said. “They work so hard and they have such high expectations for themselves. On top of that, the community is so supportive of the program. All the right pieces are in place to be successful.”

In addition to preparing for the coming school year, Speers is also playing trombone in several groups, including the Greater Texoma Jazz Ensemble. The group consists of adults and students in the north Texas and southern Oklahoma area. As part of their summer series, they’ll be performing at the First Baptist Church on Monday, July 22 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.


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