Alum Leads Middle School Honor Musicians

January 29, 2009

Oklahoma Baptist University alum Toye Rawls Harris is leading the only featured junior honor group at the 2009 Oklahoma Music Educators Association Convention. Under Harris' direction, the Will Rogers Middle School Symphonic Band from Miami, Okla., plays Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Tulsa Convention Center Assembly Hall.

Harris, who graduated from OBU in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in music education, serves as the head middle school band director and assistant high school band director for Miami Public Schools.

Harris sent an audition recording of her top performing middle school ensemble to the Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OMEA) Board in June 2008. The audition recordings were sent to various college band directors, who evaluated the auditions. The college directors reported back to the OMEA Board, and selected the top-ranked ensembles to perform at the convention. Harris' band joins two high school bands and one university band in the OMEA honor band concert.

"I have been in the Miami Schools for 12 years, and we have been very successful," Harris said. "I work with some of the greatest students on earth. I am just elated that my students are going to have this opportunity.

"The preparation process with the students has been incredible," she said. "They are working hard, and the desire to be fine musicians is so visible. As their teacher, I am seeing the looks of pride that they are having working for excellence. We demand and command excellence and settle for nothing less, and they have truly met this challenge."

Harris expressed gratitude to Dr. Jim Hansford, OBU Burton Patterson professor of music, director of bands and coordinator of instrumental studies. Hansford not only taught Harris as an OBU student, but also traveled to Miami to help her band prepare for the OMEA performance.

"To be selected as an honor band to perform at the Oklahoma Music Educators Convention in Tulsa is an honor reserved for only the very finest of our public school band programs," Hansford said. "The competition is demanding and rigorous, and only the most refined and polished ensembles are chosen to perform on the honor concert.

"The Will Rogers ensemble is the single middle school band that will be featured this year. Their director, OBU graduate Toye Harris, and the fine students in the ensemble deserve hearty congratulations for this exceptional accomplishment," he said.

Hansford noted that he is not surprised Harris' band has reached such an accomplishment.

"When she was a music major at OBU in the mid-'90s, she possessed a drive and focus that was a notch above the average student," Hansford said. "I expected great things from her, and obviously she has not disappointed me."