By Norvil Howell: Guest columnist
This is part of a week-long series in celebration of “Music in Our Schools Week” at Clovis Municipal Schools.
From its earliest times Clovis has been a musical community. Early day residents performed in their homes and churches and organized amateur productions in the community.
Clovis’ first music teacher was Elsie “Skoogie” Johnson. She arrived by train from Chicago in 1917, looking for adventure in the Wild West. She was met at the depot by the Superintendent of Schools, E.W. Bowye.
The schools in Clovis were scattered all over town, and keeping a regular schedule, she walked from school to school. Her teaching encompassed nearly 46 years.
One of the town’s most prominent music educators was Harry Barton, who became music supervisor to the Clovis schools in 1928 and retired 39 years later.
Barton attended the famed Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago with a degree in Violin and Theory.
During his years as a music educator, thousands of students benefited from his high personal and musical standards.
One of the surviving traditions he set was the annual CHS Christmas Choral Concert.
L.W. Gray was a Clovis schools band director who not only increased band membership from 17 to 85 but also organized the fire department drum corps, the fire department string Band, the Boy Scout band and a community concert band.
Hardly a week went by without one of his bands performing. He organized his children and others into the Musical Grays Stock Co. He set up a big tent for performances next to the family home on Prince Street.
In 1936, Roy C. Boaz came to Clovis from Oklahoma. He was named special instructor of the Clovis High School Band and wind instruments. All three of Boaz’ children played instruments. His daughter, Eva Ruth married A.C. Bryant, who later owned and operated the Foxy Drive In. Cachi Bryant, an eighth-grader at Marshall Junior High School, is the third generation to follow in Roy Boaz’ footsteps.
In 1956, I took over as Clovis High School band director, became the music supervisor in 1980, and retired in 1997.
I was awarded the Music Educator of the Year in 1988 and the Hall of Fame award in 2001.
Over the years, the Clovis Schools Music Program expanded as the town grew. It is the only large school district in New Mexico where there is a certified music teacher at each elementary school.
In 2005, the Clovis Schools added a string program to its flourishing band and choir programs.
Norvil Howell was the Clovis High School band director 1956 to 1980 and coordinator of music from 1980 to 1997. He still teaches trumpet and helps the Clovis bands.