100 years of pryor band

PRYOR, Oklahoma - Pryor High School has been around for about 102 years. Pryor High School Band has been around for 100 of those years. In 1919, Grand Canyon National Park was created. The first transatlantic flight was made (non-solo, not Lindbergh). Drinking alcohol was banned in the United States. Kappa Kappa Psi, the National Honorary Band Fraternity, was established at Oklahoma A&M College (now OSU) in Stillwater. Also in 1919 (or 1920?), some instruments were purchased for a new band at the recently organized Pryor High School.

100 years of pryor band

Fast-forward 25 years, past the Depression and its recovery, up to 1945, a couple of weeks before Germany's surrender in World War II. We find Robert O. Williams directing the Pryor High School Band in the 1945 Spring Band Concert. George Tilly, who would later be the president of the First National Bank, played a trombone solo. Around the same time, Don Webster, a future Pryor Band director, was in the much smaller Deer Creek High School Band, along with Floyd Moyer, who would be band director at Fairfax, Idabel, and Okmulgee.

100 years of pryor band

Jesse Mae Bewley was a pianist with the band from 1945 to 1948. She played a Chopin piece in the 1945 spring concert, Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata in 1946, and an original composition in 1947. She was drum major in 1948. Her father, Raymon Bewley, would later serve as mayor of Pryor. Among the band members of 1948 were John Wilkerson (percussion), Haskell Lee Gaither (clarinet), and Dick Cameron (cornet).

If you read through the concert programs you may run across a lot of names you recognize. For example, I was pretty surprised to learn that my junior high English teacher's daughter played one of my favorite Beethoven pieces, long before I was born. It's also interesting to see the music that was played then. Much of it is recognizable today.

In the 1964 coronation concert, Kenny Grass was a tenor sax player, drum major, All State Band member, John Philip Sousa Award winner, and the escort to senior attendant Judy Holt. He went into music education, was band director at Broken Arrow, then professor Kenneth G. Grass, Director of Bands at the University of Tulsa.

100 years of pryor band

50 years later in 2014:  The Pryor Band Drum Majors, Don Webster, and two of his former students, Ken Grass and Roy Jackson.

100 years of pyro band

Ken Grass, Drum Major, Celebrating the ground breaking of Markham Ferry Dam in 1964.

There are dozens of former PHS band members with interesting stories, but it would be pretty boring to list them all and I'd inevitably leave out the important ones. So I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader. Here are some old concert programs, most with a list of band members.

1945 Spring Concert

 1965 Coronation Concert

1946 Spring Concert

1966 Coronation Concert

1947 Spring Concert

1967 Coronation Concert

1948 Midwinter Concert

1968 Coronation Concert

1949 Christmas Banquet

1969 Coronation Concert

1949 Coronation Concert

1969 All-Band Concert

1950 Coronation Concert

1970 Coronation Concert

1951 Coronation Concert

1970 All-Band Concert

1953 Coronation Concert

1971 Coronation Concert

1956 Coronation Concert

1971 All-Band Concert

1959 Spring Concert

1972 Coronation Concert

1960 Coronation Concert

1973 Coronation Concert

1961 Coronation Concert

1974 Coronation Concert

1962 Coronation Concert

1975 Coronation Concert

1963 Coronation Concert

1976 Coronation Concert

1964 Coronation Concert

1977 Coronation Concert

1964 All-Band Concert

1978 Coronation Concert

100 years of pryor band

The old Band Room, near the Pryor Middle School.

100 years of pryor band


In 1966, the Pryor Band did some serious fund raising for a trip to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. They marched in the Cotton Bowl parade and at half time of the game. It was the first of many trips for the Pryor Band (I think).

The band recently played at the Chicago Heritage Festival. At Chicago, the band received a gold ratings for concert band, symphonic band, and a percussion ensemble, and the symphonic band received 3rd place in class 1A at the competition.

100 years of pryor band

The Oklahoma All State Band is a highly prestigious group. Potential members play difficult, individual tryouts, and the large majority of those who tryout don't make it. There is a wall in the Pryor band room with photos of the All State Band members throughout the years. A few have made it for two or three years, but not many.

100 years of pryor band

Chip Cooper made All State Band in 1968, 1969, and 1970. Here is a recording of the 1969 All State Band, with Pryor Band members Chip Cooper, Donna Self, and Barbara Webster.

Marching contests have been held in Pryor, from time to time, at least since the 1960s. More recently Band Day has been held annually for quite a few years.

Here is a video of the 1969 Pryor High School Band in marching contests at Pryor. To finish each half time show, the band would go to the west end of the field and come out spelling PHS while playing the Pryor fight song (Notre Dame Victory March), and the crowd would always stand and clap. This was taken on 8mm film with no sound. It was really boring that way, so I added some music from the future (the Notre Dame Victory March), and some from the past (Sousa's band playing Stars and Stripes).

100 years of pryor band

Some of the band concert were held in the old gym...

100 years of pryor band

...which was recently demolished.

100 years of pryor band

...about 50 years after the old high school was demolished following a fire.

These are the Pryor High School Band directors for the past 75 years:

Robert O. Williams, 1945-46 (and possibly earlier)

B.F. Ellis, 1947

Ed Gowan, 1949-50

Gilbert Briggs, 1951-52

James Girard, 1953-59

Don Webster, 1959-1970

David Westgate, 1970-1976

Randy Hurst, 1977-82

Roy Jackson, 1982-2015

Kevin Speakman, 2015-

100 years of pryor band

Mr. Roy Jackson

Roy Jackson, 1973 PHS graduate, was director for 33 years. He has been instrumental (pun intended) in building and keeping the Pryor Band the outstanding organization it is. He regularly helps with the band today. Among his hundreds of students were 10 of Don Webster's notorious grandchildren over a continuous span of 15 years, a testament to Mr. Jackson's endless patience and perseverance.

Here's a recording of Mr. Jackson's 2009 Pryor High School Band playing at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. It's an outstanding performance for a high school band.

1 - Introduction

2 - Longford Legend, first movement

3 - Longford Legend, second movement

4 - Longford Legend, third movement

5 - Urban Dances

If you have a chance, it's worth stopping by the Pryor band room to view the awards the band has received over the years. There are quite a few "Sweepstakes" displays, for bands that earned a superior rating at state contests in Marching, Concert, and Sight Reading, a notable accomplishment for the director and the students.

100 years of pryor band
100 years of pryor band

In 1960, the Pryor High School Band began honoring the outstanding senior band member with the John Philip Sousa Award, a continuing tradition that has lasted 60 years. These are the Pryor High School Band members who have been honored with the award. 


1960 Ginger Caves

 1991 Doug Booher

 1961 Dwight Strawhun

 1992 Trisha Short

 1962 Karen Whitemack

 1992 Wendy Thomas

 1963 Cecil Agnew

 1993 Christy Brannon

 1964 Kenny Grass

 1994 Carolyn Hutchinson

 1965 Jim Medlock

 1995 Sara McClung

 1966 Randy Irwin

 1995 Erica Wheat

 1967 Don Berkemeyer

 1996 Brenda Johnston

 1968 Boyd Clark

 1997 Kendall Hanson

 1969 Pat Medlock

 1997 Michael Blackwell

 1970 Chip Cooper

 1998 Adam Anderson

 1971 Brent Berry

 1999 Dixie Stone

 1972 Anne Schaefer

 2000 Bobby Gorbet

 1973 Roy Jackson

 2001 Ashlee Jackson

 1974 Bob Webster

 2002 Laura Otto

 1975 Shirley Biggs

 2003 Brian Werkman

 1976 Samson Doolin

 2004 Grant Latta

 1977 Mark Cooper

 2005 Aimee Lee

 1978 Brenda Silkey

 2006 Krisha Foster

 1979 Donna Gustafson

 2007 Michelle Barney

 1980 Shawn Beree

 2008 Melissa Gorbet

 1980 Scott Morgan

 2009 Kelsey Raus

 1981 Deanie Dunavant

 2010 Sean Webster

 1982 Carolyn Kiesel

 2011 Patric Bias

 1983 Stuart Matthews

 2012 Lindsey Trout

 1984 John Redmond

2013 Ashton Conley 

 1985 Rustin Polk

 2014 Ashtin Johnson

 1986 Alan Dailey

 2015 Jeffrey Helmuth

 1987 Tye Robison

 2016 Courtney Stott

 1988 Traci Warren

 2017 Seth Hobbs

 1989 Lance Wilcox

 2018 Jillian Gore

 1990 Cristina Wingard

 2019 Saige Martin