When Hillcrest band teacher Brian Smith arrived at the school two years ago, 19 students were in the band. Today, there are nearly 120. Any of his students will tell you he’s largely the reason for that boom, especially his daughter, Caity, who plays oboe, flute, drums, piccolo — you name it. “My dad helped people see what this band could be. He’s not your typical teacher — he can act like a big kid — but he always makes music fun for us. I couldn’t be any prouder of what he’s done for our band.”

The Hillcrest band is six times larger since you arrived. How did you pull that off?
I literally walked around the school recruiting kids. I’d convince them to just try band for a semester, and after that, they’d be hooked. I don’t know if it’s the Pied Piper effect or what, but it’s working.
What impact has band had on students, and on the school as a whole?
For the kids, it’s like music has drawn the life out of them — it’s proven to be a healthy outlet, which everyone needs in their life. And for our school, it’s brought an increased sense of unity. Now, when the band comes out on the [football] field, Hillcrest has a band it can take pride in and get excited about.
That must be an incredibly rewarding feeling.
It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. This year, our band got a superior rating at the UIL competitions, and that hasn’t been done at Hillcrest in 15 years. It was really cool to be a part of that.
I understand that you’ve also done some big things with the Hillcrest color guard.
Yes, when I got here, there were three students in the color guard. Now there are 30. I also coach the softball team, and I stepped in as temporary swimming coach. I love being at Hillcrest because I get to have a creative outlet with band, and an athletic outlet with coaching — plus, I’m helping kids here, which is what I’m happy dedicating my life to.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
We’re competing against bigger schools with more resources. For example, our color guard doesn’t have uniforms. I’d really love to get them actual uniforms, but the resources just aren’t there. I’d also really like to get our band some better instruments, but again, the resources aren’t there.
Is there anything neighbors can do help?
Yes, we need all the community help we can get. If a neighbor has an old instrument in their garage collecting dust, they can donate it to us. I’d be happy to clean it and repair it so one of our kids can play it. We’re open to any sort of help the community is willing to give us — so if someone has an idea, I’m all ears. And really, they’d be doing a great thing by helping us. These are good kids in need who are very deserving of some neighborhood support.

If you’d like to help the Hillcrest band or color guard, call Brian Smith at  brismith@dallasisd.org

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