Brownsville Roots : Composer pens concert march dedicated to two BISD educators
Instrumental music programs in the Brownsville Independent School District have come full circle with the composition of a concert march for middle school bands written by William Owens, a nationally known composer, and former BISD band director who got his start at Perkins Middle School in the late 1980s.
Owens dedicated the piece to two of his band students at Perkins, Mike Garza and Joe Manzano, who went on to professional music careers and are now assistant band directors at Vela and Oliveira middle schools, respectively.
The New Era Concert March had its debut April 4 at a UIL Concert and Sight Reading Evaluation in Harlingen, said Melody Eriksen, BISD Choral Music lead teacher.
Garza, a French horn player, and Manzano, a trombonist, have known each other since elementary school. They became friends as members of the Perkins band when Owens was the assistant director and have stayed in touch with him over the years.
According to Owens’ website www.williamowensmusic.com, his compositional style is for young ensembles. He is a seasoned music educator and active as a composer, clinician and conductor throughout the United States and Canada.
Since 1993, Owens has written more than 200 commissioned and published works for concert band, string orchestra and small ensemble. His music has been performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Midwest Clinic and appears on required music lists nationally and abroad, according to the website.
Owens said he commposed the march for Manzano and Garza because they hold teaching positions similar to ones he and his colleaagues held earlier in their careers. He said he wrote the march specifically for middle school bands.
"I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to do it for those two guys," he said. "They were cherished students. ... I think that it is just really special that they came back to their home city to teach."
Manzano and Garza said Owens contacted them recently proposing to write a piece for middle school bands. They said it was no surprise Owens was interested in a piece for BISD since he was the BISD band director in the days when Vela Middle School was known as the Paredes Line Ninth-Grade Campus.
They said Owens is a frequent presence at the Texas Music Educators Association annual conference in San Antonio. His music is on the UIL required list for middle school bands.
“He’s usually there promoting his music, plus he’ll come down here and clinic our all-region groups,” Manzano said.
“For our age group he’s the best composer out there. … Since he taught this age group for so long he’s able to craft music that’s age appropriate, that really suits this age group,” Garza added.
Both said their students loved the composition.
The two band directors have taken different paths professionally.
Garza knew from the time he was in middle school that he wanted to play in a symphony orchestra. He earned his bachelor’s in music performance, was a member of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for a year before returning to North Texas to earn his master’s in music performance.
He then got a job with the Symphonia de Galicia in Galicia, Spain, and played for 12 seasons before his son was born and he and his wife decided to move back to Brownsville. They ended up buying a house next door to Manzano.
Manzano said he knew he wanted to teach middle school band from the time he was in high school. He earned his bachelor’s in music education from Texas A&M Kingsville and after a brief stint teaching high school moved to middle school, first at Garcia, then at Besteiro and now at Oliveira.
“This is the man who inspired us to be musicians and educators. It’s just a phenomenal honor to have the piece dedicated to us,” Manzano said.
A plus was that he did it for free when such works usually are commissioned and composed for a fee.