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A Lasting Legacy

Jim Shaw | May 2014

    In April 2013, Paul Worosello, director of bands at Klein Forest High School in Houston for 34 years, announced his retirement. This announcement spurred a tremendous tribute, the likes of which is rarely seen in any profession.
    At the time Worosello became the head band director at Klein Forest High School, the World Wide Web did not exist, gas was $0.86 per gallon, and the Sony Walkman was about to make its debut in stores. Under Worosello’s direction, the Klein Forest band program built a reputation for excellence. Highlights and accomplishments for the band during Worosello’s tenure included a performance at the Midwest Clinic and three performances at Carnegie Hall. The band also earned honors as a Grammy Signature School.
    In the band directing profession, it is rare for someone to stay in one place for twenty years, much less over thirty. During that time, Paul saw hundreds, if not thousands, of students go through his program at Klein Forest. His integrity, musicianship, and honesty had a profound impact on his students that went far beyond the musical experiences in which they took part.
Upon the announcement of his retirement, the members of the Klein Forest band staff and Paul’s wife, Susan, went into overdrive to plan a tribute concert worthy of Paul’s legacy and his 34 years at Klein Forest High School. A secret Facebook group, “Mr. Worcello’s Opus” (intentionally misspelled so that Paul would not accidentally stumble across it), was created to contact former alumni and disseminate information to alumni and friends who would want to participate in or attend the concert. This page became a virtual reunion for current and former Klein Forest band staff members, band alumni, former band parents, and mentors and friends of Paul. As of the day of the tribute concert, the group numbered over 850 members.
    Guest conductors who would hold meaning for Paul were lined up, including Mike Connors (a fellow assistant director with Paul at Klein High School in the 1970s and the godfather of Paul’s children), Bob Blanton (former Klein ISD Director of Fine Arts and the person who hired Paul at Klein High School), Randy Vaughn (another former Klein High School director and colleague of Paul’s), Monte Mast (the current Klein ISD Director of Fine Arts), Kenny Bierschenk (former Klein Forest High School Associate Band Director and arranger of the music for all of Klein Forest’s marching shows throughout the 1980’s), and Jim Shaw (former Klein Forest Band member and former head band director of Klein Forest’s middle school feeder program at Wunderlich). Of special significance was the inclusion of former West Texas State University band director Dr. Gary Garner, who was Paul’s college band director and the most influential mentor to Paul during his career.
    Through the Facebook page, a band comprised of alumni and colleagues was formed. Band instrumentation numbered over 100 when the group had to be closed due to size limitations of the Klein Forest stage. Assistant directors at Klein Forest, Lynda Eubanks and Ryan Barker, percussion specialist Eric Ridenour, and Paul’s wife Susan worked to put together a program consisting of pieces that had special significance to Paul. The pieces they chose included Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming; The Earle of Oxford Marche from the William Byrd Suite by Gordon Jacob; movements from Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger; The Cave of the Winds by Russell Peck; the Lucien Calliet arrangement of Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral by Richard Wagner; and the Nimrod movement to Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The program also included Kenny Bierschenck conducting his own arrangement of a medley of tunes from Klein Forest’s various marching shows through the Worosello years, titled Sounds of the Stadium. In addition, Paul himself would be called to the stage to conduct Frank Ticheli’s Blue Shades, a piece that Paul was involved in commissioning, and this performance would also feature Paul’s son, Tygar, playing the clarinet solo.
    The concert would conclude with Bring Him Home, arranged by Lynda Eubanks. This last piece was to be accompanied by selected audio clips from an interview with Paul in which he discussed his teaching philosophy and his reflections on his career.
    The tribute band came together on the Friday evening prior to the Saturday concert. Membership ranged from professional musicians and band directors who played their instruments every day to alumni who had not touched their instruments in fifteen years or more. After five and a half hours of rehearsal spread out over Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, the band took the stage on Saturday evening.
    As the time of the concert neared, Paul was told that the staff wanted to meet at Klein Forest High School one last time before heading to dinner. When Paul and Susan arrived at Klein Forest and saw the abundance of cars parked in the lot outside of the auditorium, he looked at his wife and said, “We’re not going to dinner, are we?” After a quick sandwich to tide him over, Paul was led to the auditorium where he was greeted by thunderous applause from the hundreds of audience members and band members on stage. After being temporarily overcome with emotion and hiding his face in his hands, Paul was led to a front row seat where he sat with his wife and daughter, who had flown in from Las Vegas for the event and surprised him, while Master of Ceremonies, Dan Potter of DCI fame, took the stage to introduce the evening’s event.
    Throughout this magical evening the guest conductors paid tribute to Paul with short anecdotes and remarks regarding how he had been a part of their lives. An alumni drum corps burst into the room in the middle of Sounds of the Stadium, performing a cadence that had been popular in the Klein Forest band throughout the 1980s. The Klein school administration also made a special presentation, declaring that the music wing would be renamed the Paul J. Worosello Performing Arts Center. The concert concluded with Paul conducting the alumni band through the Klein Forest school song. An hour after the concert had ended, Paul was still standing in the exact same spot in the auditorium while he greeted hundreds of concert attendees who lined up to pass on their congratulations and best wishes.
    All in all, it was an inspiring evening, not just for Paul, but for all in attendance and even those who were unable to attend but kept up with these happenings through Facebook. Many alumni made remarks to the effect that they were ready to start playing their instruments again. This alone speaks to the incredible legacy that Paul Worosello passed on to his students.

Quotes from the Facebook page:

I am so humbled by everything. The memories from last night were such a poignant culmination of so many individual memories from so many years. I am truly blessed. The band was exceptional! Who would have thought that so much music could come from so little rehearsal. You have given me the greatest gift imaginable. – Paul Worosello

I just wanted to say thanks to the KF family for allowing me the honor of MCing Paul’s opus. It truly was one of the most uplifting and cool events I’ve participated in over 30 years of fronting band/corps shows, concerts, etc. Thanks Lynda, Ryan, Eric & Susan for the invite & good luck Paul! – Dan Potter

First of all, it was fantastic to run into so many people I still think of as “my kids” (even though you’re all in your 40’s now) – I loved talking with you all, sorry I couldn’t quite get all the names right, but I was so overwhelmed, it was an emotional night for me too! – Kenny Bierschenk, former Klein Forest band assistant director

The last couple of months, as everyone has been posting memories and pictures to this site, have brought back so many special memories for me and reconnected me with so many old friends. It is clear that Mr. Worosello had a huge impact on hundreds of our lives over the last several decades. I am amazed by the number of you who have chosen careers in music and music education – I’m sure in large part due to Mr. Worosello and the other fabulous music educators that we were privileged to have at Klein Forest over the years. And for those of us who have not continued playing our instruments into adulthood, the discipline, experiences, and friendships built over our years in band have still clearly played a huge part in shaping who we were to become as adults. – Allison Cleveland, former band member and drum major

Thank you Paul for everything you have done…today as I reflect on last night I was reminded of one major quality that Paul has and that KF has – and many other schools aren’t so fortunate to possess – and that word is “CLASS.” Paul, Kenny & Keith played such a major part in shaping the person that I am today, like so many others that have gone through the ranks…you laid the strong foundation that allowed all of my musical successes to build and stand on. I am so thankful for my years with you. Thank you guys, much love!! – Sean Salinas, former band member and current percussion instructor at Westfield High School