Gearing Down & Tuning Up
Former SSMS band director Kelley Fletcher’s part-time gigs have her musical life in full swin

Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Sept. 10, 2006 -- A Sulphur Springs resident recently earned a position in the newly formed Lone Star Wind Orchestra in Dallas, a professional wind, brass and percussion ensemble.

Kelley Fletcher, local musician and former Sulphur Springs Middle School band director, cut back this summer on her day job and added another credit to her list of accomplishments as a professional musician.

At the end of the school year, she resigned her position with DeSoto West Junior High, where she worked last year with middle school bands, to pursue teaching options not so far away or so time constricting.

Teaching at DeSoto, she got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive from Fort Worth, where she was staying during the week with her mother. She managed to squeeze in a half hour's practice on her trumpet before 7 a.m. sectionals, then work "pretty much non-stop" teaching until 5 p.m. Then it was time to begin the drive back to her mom's Fort Worth residence, which took between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on traffic and left few hours for little more than eating and sleeping.

In fact, her busy schedule left little time for practice, which initially kept her from auditioning for the Lone Star Wind Orchestra.

"Upon hearing about the audition, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to meet people, as well as play in a professional type of wind ensemble," Fletcher said. "Unfortunately, the audition was to take place before school was out, and I did not have time to prepare and audition representative of my abilities."

While the experience at DeSoto was positive, Fletcher said the pace led her to embark on a major life change for the second straight year. Two years ago, she left her post as band director at Sulphur Springs Middle School, where she led many a student to award-winning performances.

"I have hit that place in my life, fortysomething, that makes you question if you want to continue down the same road. ... I have never had a year of my life pass me by like last year did, and once again I knew there needed to be yet another a change," she said.

And change she did.

Fletcher resigned her job with DeSoto at the end of the school year without another position lined up.

"Once school was out, I told [DeSoto High School band director] Mr. [Harry] Blake how much I appreciated the opportunity to teach at DeSoto, but that I needed to make a drastic change in my life," Fletcher said. "I needed quality time to spend with my loved ones, and I wanted to go places and meet people. I knew that I would never be able to have any other kind of life until I made some changes."

After school was out, LSWO's manager "was quite persistent" and insisted that Fletcher audition for the wind orchestra. Two weeks and two lessons with Texas A&M University-Commerce trumpet professor Conrad Bauschka later, Fletcher did indeed audition for Lone Star Wind Orchestra.

"I played a respectable audition and was later called with the good news. I made the ensemble!" enthused Fletcher of LSWO, which is composed of professional wind, brass and percussion players throughout the North Texas area. The members were "hand-selected for each musician's individual history of performance excellence and personal commitment to the wind band medium," according to LSWO's web site: http://www.lonestarwindorchestra.com/ 

"She was humble and professional. She wowed us with her charm and grace, as well as her musical and technical faculty on the trumpet. One very impressive mention is that Kelley was the only person auditioning to memorize her required excerpts," Chris Tucker, vice-chair for music and one of three co-founders of Lone Star Wind Orchestra, said of Fletcher's audition.

In order to become a member of the ensemble, musicians from the "general community" must be invited to audition. Created in 2006 by Robert Clark, Barry Knezek and Tucker, LSWO performs classical transcriptions, chamber music and contemporary wind band literatures. 

"Kelley is an important part of this professional wind ensemble," Tucker stated. "She will help lead and provide an example of what is it to be a professional musician. I am honored to have her in the Lone Star Wind Orchestra."

In July, Fletcher also applied for a half-time band director’s position posted on Texas Music Educators Association's web site.

Just before Labor Day, she taught her first classes at Memorial Preparatory School in Garland, where she works from 12 noon to 4 p.m. week days. This week she attended the first full meeting of LSWO's wind, brass and percussion players. She was also recognized this year in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers," marking the fourth consecutive year she has received the nod.

Taking the part with LSWO and half-time position in Garland means Fletcher can drive to work from her own residence, and  she's even beginning to enjoy a social life — when she's not busy with her other musical commitments, of course.

"Following a week of having a life outside of work, my advice to those of you who can afford to retire early is — do it!" Fletcher urges. "Having the mornings and evenings to take care of business is wonderful, as well as sending cards to people you want to stay in touch with. You can even stay up late without worrying about getting up early and rushing to be somewhere. Life is too short to make it all about work. It is so important to have good health insurance, but if you can afford to work less and still keep your insurance, then play more and spend as much time with your family and friends as you possibly can."

On Sept. 27, she will perform her first concert with Lone Star Wind Orchestra in the Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas. The 8 p.m. performance, "Fiesta!" will be a tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month with Hispanic-inspired with  Albert Ginastera's "Malambo," James Barnes' "Danza Sinfonica," Manuel de Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance," H. Owen Reed's "La Fiesta Mexicana" and the world premier of Christopher Tucker's "Fanfare Española." Nationally-known mariachi band Los Reyes de Dallas and "the exciting dance troupe Alegre Ballet Folklorico" will also be featured with Lone Start Wind Orchestra.

Tickets to "Fiesta!" range from $10 up to $40 and may be obtained by calling 1-800-462-7979 or online at www.centralticketoffice.com.

In addition to part-time teaching and playing with LSWO, Fletcher also continues to play with the Jack Melick Orchestra, which she has been a member of for 18 years, as well as Melick's five-piece combo. Playing with Galen Jeter's band and Frank Sinatra impersonator Paul Salos in Las Vegas last year also led to other jobs with Salos.

"I have my first job with Paul's band at the Fort Worth Petroleum Club this September. If I do well, I am hopeful that he will call me back for more jobs," Fletcher said.

She also recently played with a 10-piece ensemble in Las Colinas Country Club with the Gary Lee Band.

While her life's new direction seems to be centered in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Fletcher still considers Sulphur Springs, where she attended high school and has lived since 1990, her home.

Fletcher still plays in the First Baptist Church Orchestra, and when available performs with the North East Texas Choral Society. She has also been known on occasion to play for Hopkins County Military Coalition, as well as performing in the Northeast Texas Symphony Orchestra during the 4th of July concerts on the square.

"I am glad I live in Sulphur Springs, but the big band action is definitely in the Metroplex," Fletcher said.

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