Harold Beaird, Apache Band
A band student at Tyler High School, Beaird’s instructors asked him to come to TJC and help put a band together. At the time, TJC was in the old Tyler High building.
In exchange for his work, they offered him a two-year band scholarship. Beaird agreed and started the summer of 1947 with his work.
In addition to helping recruit band students, Beaird worked with Mildred Stringer and Al Gilliam as they created the Apache Belles routines. He played the clarinet while they worked on choreography.
By the fall of 1947, the college had a new student life.
“In May 1947, we did not have a band,” Beaird, 82, said. “We didn’t have Apache Belles. We didn’t have the football team. But, by September of ’47, we had all three and we were under way.”
Rose Stadium still was a year away from opening. So the band and Belles performed at the old stadium off North Bois d’Arc Avenue, adjacent to what was then Tyler High School (now Caldwell Elementary Arts Academy).
“So a lot of new things were being done,” Beaird said. “TJC was expanding and moving.”
Key people involved in the band and Belles startup process were then-TJC President Harry E. Jenkins and Dean Edward M. Potter. Beaird said hiring Doc Witt, the Tyler High School band director, was a key part of the band’s startup process as well.
Beaird said the whole town was united around TJC, pleased with the progress and excited about the new developments.
“We knew everything we were doing was building a foundation for the future and (everything else) has come from that,” he said.
Tom Mensch, TJC Director of bands and professor of trombone
With the help of associate director of bands Tom McGowan and three other faculty members, they prepare students for on-campus and community performances. Mensch said his goals go beyond improving musical abilities.
“I want my kids to be better; I want them to be better people,” he said. “That’s my whole entire philosophy about it.”
About 50 of the 200-plus band members are music majors, Mensch said. That means many of those students won’t pick up their instruments again after college is over. So Mensch seeks to use music lessons to teach life lessons.
“It’s my job to create in them another level of responsibility and a work ethic in the students …” said Mensch, who has been at TJC for 10 years. “When you create in the student the need to take care of the little things in life, that takes care of all of the other areas of their life.”
Mensch said the band has a unique opportunity to reach the community in a completely different way than other campus organizations.
The jazz combo performs at least 20 off-campus concerts per semester. The drumline plays four to five shows. Concert and marching bands also play.
“It’s community enrichment,” he said. “We get a chance to enrich that aspect of culture that we are performing to. … It’s more than just entertainment. The band as a whole is a very familiar element to the culture. To have a great program like this … not only does it give us a sense of pride, but it also is able to culturally enrich the global community.”
Jasilyn Schaefer, TJC Apache Belles Director, Apache Belle 1996 to 1998
A: Being an Apache Belle meant that I had not chosen the easy road. We rarely got to sleep late. We had workouts, expectations and were held accountable for our actions and academics to a much higher degree than the average college students. All of that on top of the performance excellence, rehearsals, preparation and travel that are incumbent upon all Apache Belles.
Q: What is a memory you will never forget from your Apache Belle days?
A: It was homecoming 1997 (50th anniversary of the Apache Belles) and we had worked for weeks on a fabulous halftime show to honor the decades of ladies that were Apache Belles. But the rains came and then they poured and it all looked like it might be a wash. But the alumni all stayed, and just before halftime, the sun came out. We couldn’t wait to get on that field. We didn’t have turf then, so the field was a muddy mess. We did our high-kick routine and mud flew everywhere, but the cheers of those 49 years of alumni before us were incredible. Then we did our clogging prop routine on these huge Indian drums and the crowd just went nuts — screaming, clapping. Words can’t explain that moment. I will never forget it. The pride at making all those alumni proud and knowing that we were continuing the tradition of excellence just as they expected was pure magic.
Q: As director, how do you seek to carry out your responsibility?
A: I challenge every one of our members to expect only the best from themselves because that is the only thing I will accept from them. … Ultimately … every time they step foot on the performance stage, halftime field, or their place of work, or the classroom, they are always Apache Belles and in all that they do, they exude excellence. They are an example. My ultimate responsibility is yes, to prepare the Apache Belles for each performance they have, but more than that to prepare them for a successful life full of the excellence that was taught to them through the Apache Belle experience.