When Bronson Warren was in high school, he would have laughed in disbelief if someone had told him he would be a band director some day.
But that changed during Warren’s junior year of college, thanks to band camp.
Warren originally wanted to be a professional musician, and he majored in music education at East Central University. His parents were both teachers, and he thought education would be a good career to fall back on if he needed to.
When Warren was a college junior, the ECU’s band director started a band camp and asked some music students — including Warren — to help teach classes.
That experience prompted Warren to start thinking about a new career path.
“My junior year in college was when I first was going, ‘Hey, I kind of enjoy this,’ and really got interested in going into the band directing field,” he said recently.
Warren earned a bachelor’s degree in education from ECU in 1977 and took a job as the assistant band director at Moore High School. Three years later, he became the band director at Ada High School — a job he held for the next 22 years.
The Oklahoma Music Educators Association will recognize Warren’s work later this month, when he will be inducted into the OkMEA Hall of Fame. The ceremony, which is part of the association’s winter conference, will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Tulsa.
The Hall of Fame recognizes people who have made significant contributions to music education in Oklahoma, served OkMEA in a regional or state capacity and demonstrated excellence in teaching music, the association said in a news release. Inductees are nominated by their peers, recommended by the association’s awards committee and confirmed by the group’s executive board.
Warren, who now lives in Owasso, said he was pleased when he learned about the honor in late October.
“I was surprised, humbled and very, very honored to join that group of Hall of Fame members,” he said.
Strike up the band
An alumnus of the Ada High band, Warren was working at Moore High School when he learned that Ada was looking for a new director to oversee the district’s entire band program.
Former director Jerry Howard, who was one of Warren’s band directors in high school, told Warren in the spring of 1980 that the Ada job was about to open. Warren had only three years’ teaching experience under his belt at the time, and he had reservations about applying for the job.
“In fact, Jerry’s the one that really talked me into doing it,” Warren said. “But I knew Ada was such a stable school system and the band directors there — if you’re a band director at Ada, if you do a good job, you can stay for 20 years or more. So I knew if I didn’t go for it, then it might not open up for a long, long time.”
Warren said Moore had a fine school system, but he and his wife wanted to raise their children in a smaller district. And since Warren and his wife were familiar with Ada schools, he applied for the job and became Ada’s new band director in 1980.
Under Warren’s direction, the Ada High band consistently earned superior ratings at regional marching band competitions and district concert band contests, according to the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. The band also won the Oklahoma State Music Sweepstakes award 14 times over the next 22 years and was selected as an honor group for OkMEA’s 1988 and 1993 conferences.
The band, known as “The Marching Cougars,” won the grand championship trophy at the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association’s marching band contest four times — 1987, 1988, 1992 and 1993. The Marching Cougars also earned several first-place awards at band contests in Texas and Colorado.
Warren also collected several personal awards during his career, including being named the OBA’s bandmaster of the year in 1990. He was inducted into the National Band Directors Association in 1992 and was named Ada Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year in 1994 — the same year he was a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
Warren served as president of OBA in 1988 and was the band division vice president for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association’s band division in 1993 and 1994. Warren left the Ada school district in 2002 and accepted an administrative position at East Central University. The following year, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Bandmaster Hall of Fame.
While at ECU, Warren served as the director of high school and college relations for two years and as the dean of students for eight years before he retired from public education.
Warren said he made the move to ECU in part because marching bands were changing, and he thought his Ada High students needed someone with a fresh perspective.
“As far as concert band was concerned, I’d probably still be there (at Ada High) if that’s all I had to do,” he said. “But marching band — it’s pretty much a young man’s job, and I was starting to get kind of burned out.”
Warren retired from ECU in 2012, but he hasn’t left music — or education — altogether. He serves as a substitute band teacher for the Owasso school district, and he still judges marching band contests and conducts band clinics in the area.
Warren said he believes music education is valuable because it teaches students a skill they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.
“There’s a lot of studies on the left side of the brain, the right side of the brain,” he said. “You have your mathematical side and artistic side. And so, of course, music education can fill that artistic side.”