Less than a decade after graduating from George West High School herself, Ella Lowrance is seeking to build stability and excellence at her alma mater as the district’s new band director.
When the band director job opened, Lowrance was working as a substitute teacher in New Mexico and her sister discovered the vacancy early one morning when checking the internet.
“My sister woke me up to tell me, and after that it was just a blur,” Lowrance said. “We were moving around to get my resume ready, and I bought a plane ticket for the interview.”
That turned out to be money well spent, as Lowrance was hired to lead the GWISD band, including its 35 members at the junior and senior high levels and another 40 in elementary school.
“Coming back was very surreal,” Lowrance said. “It was a little scary because I would be the one in charge and I hadn’t been an assistant director, but it’s what I want to do and I’m very happy to be back in George West.
“My top priority is to build the band back up and get a lot more members involved. I also want to give them a little better repertoire of music and help them become more confident in their playing abilities.
“The biggest challenge has been starting off as a director, but fortunately I have a large group of directors helping me, including ones in Three Rivers and Corpus Christi.”
Lowrance said she has noticed the tradition of excellence that Meagan Stephens has established as the band director for Three Rivers ISD, and she appreciates the advice and encouragement Stephens has given her as Lowrance leads the GW band.
“What I’ve enjoyed most is definitely the kids,” Lowrance said. “They’ve been so fun to work with. It’s great being able to help them through stuff and to see the growth in them.”
Lowrance said plenty has changed in the eight years she was away from the GW band program.
“It’s totally different,” she said. “There’s the new band hall itself, which I’m still getting used to, and these students have gone through several directors and experienced a lot of change over the years. I’m finding out what works best in leading them and blending that with the experience I have had in band over the years.”
Two of those who have inspired her are Doc Willamson, the former George West band director, and Jim Cordani, another GWISD band director.
Under the direction of Williamson and Cordani, the Longhorn band earned sweepstakes several years in a row and had a strong tradition of excellence. Lowrance was part of that tradition as a student.
Erik Carrillo, a senior drum major at George West, started playing in the band as a sixth grader, and said he has seen about six directors or assistant directors come and go during that time. One thing he and Lowrance both have in common is Williamson’s guidance. For two of his years in the band, Williamson was the GWISD band director.
“It’s been a lot of new techniques and all the directors have a different way of teaching and disciplining us,” Carrillo said. “My main goals this year are for the band to at least get close to the finals since it is our year for state competition. Individually, I just want to play the best I can and help the band be successful.”
Lowrance said she is excited to help start a new era for the GW band.
“I want to help build back the great tradition we’ve had over the years,” she said. “It’s great to be back and to be a part of it.”