Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series highlighting new band directors in Peaster and Brock.
The youngest of five brothers, there was always something special about Matthew Fisher. He was the only one born in Texas, in Arlington in 1983 after the family moved from Illinois.
And while he was a decent athlete like his brothers, his greatness lie in music.
Fisher is in his first year of leading the Peaster band program for grades 6-12. He is still inspired by that special feeling he gets when he hears beautiful music.
"The sounds, the emotions I would feel when I listened to a new piece or a piece I had listened to a thousand times, the way the music moved through the lines when I played, knowing that people got some form of enjoyment when I performed, and knowing that my little part in the group may have brought them just a tiny bit of happiness," he said, explaining how he fell in love with music. "Music can be like an old friend that you haven't seen in decades, or that warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. Music can be an escape from the daily grind, or a way to make the most boring task seem so exciting and fresh. Listening to it, teaching it, performing it, critiquing it, writing it, arranging it. These are all ways that music gives me my daily purpose and helps me find my place within the universe."
That is the feeling he has worked to bring to his students during his time directing bands in school districts such as Cayuga, Joshua, Munday, and Fort Worth - and now Peaster. A graduate of the Texas Wesleyan University School of Music, his bands have won numerous University Interscholastic League awards, including the first in 12 years for Munday.
As his love for music grew, Matthew always had the full support of his mother, a former musician herself. She paid for private lessons all the way through junior high school.
"She drove me to several special opportunities for me to learn, get better and perform, including band camps in the summer, until I could drive," he said. "She made sure she and my dad were at every single concert, every single football game, every single marching contest. She served on the board for the band booster club, and eventually the orchestra booster club. She volunteered when she could.
"Because of her job and her older age, she could not always be super active, but she made sure to make every performance. And, when I finished a majority of my required coursework for high school graduation by the middle of my junior year, it was her who encouraged me to take more music classes and learn other instruments."
Fisher is also in charge of all ensembles being offered by the Peaster band
program, which include the high school concert band, junior high concert band, and
beginner concert band. Beginning in the fall of 2018, Peaster will offer other
performing ensemble, beginning with marching band to eligible students in grades
The marching band will perform at Peaster football games, which concluded its first season of junior high ball, playing traditional and contemporary tunes in the stands, as well as perform their competition marching show at halftime. The band will also compete at select marching festivals throughout the fall. Additionally, the band will perform for other various Peaster community and Parker county functions throughout the year.
In the future additional ensembles will be added including jazz band, pep band, indoor drumline, and Winter Guard.
"Mr. Fisher has come in and hit the road running," Peaster Superintendent Matt Adams said. "He is doing a great job creating relationships with the kids and really working to build the program.
"We are working to re-establish our marching band and get back to competing in UIL contest."
Fisher gave praise to elementary music program director Michelle Olson. She volunteers as his assistant in the band program.
"She is great," he said. "She has volunteered and helped out as much as she is able, all while still running her own active music program at the elementary school. It is my ardent hope to get her involved on the band side of things more next year when we can jointly work on our schedules. Her main priority is getting the elementary music program lined up with my goals for the band program so we have one cohesive music program here."
Adams said Fisher also took the reins and was instrumental in developing a school fight song.
"We commissioned a composer by the name of Luke McMillan to write the fight song for us. Luke is a freelance composer specializing in writing for small bands with limited instructional resources," Fisher said. "Prior to going freelance, he worked as a band director for over 10 years at Abilene Wiley High School. We went through several drafts until we got to the final one, which the band premiered at the homecoming pep rally back in January. It is called 'Greyhounds Fight,' and with the exception of the first two measures, is an entirely original composition. The first two measures, also known as the intro, are based on the opening of 'On Wisconsin,' the official fight song of the University of Wisconsin.
"Mrs. Olson did take the time to write the drum parts for the fight song. The original drum book was not bad, it just needed some extra hot sauce. We are already working on some visual flashes while we play it for the future."
The fight song has no words yet, but Fisher is working on those and hopes to have them in place by the end of the summer.
"It is a very exciting, but at the same time very daunting task. The words have to line up with the melody, and sometimes your first second - or even third option - do not always work out. So, I just keep writing verses and when I string a couple together, I see if they work well together, and if not then it is back to the writing table."
McMillan was also commissioned to re-arrange the school song.
"This decision did not come lightly as the Peaster school song has been around for quite some time. However, he did NOT change any of the words, he only put it in a better key for playing and singing and we changed the time signature to go along with the way the kids were already singing it at pep rallies," Fisher said.
He is married to Tiffany Fisher, a special education teacher at Legacy High
School in Mansfield ISD. They live in Fort Worth with their three Dachshunds Frank, Lulu, and Mattie.
When not teaching, watching college football, or spending time with his family, Fisher can be found playing Tuba with his brass quintet, Panther City Brass. He is also a very active Texas Freemason.
His mission in Peaster, continue growing the band, which has more than doubled since adding seventh and eighth grades. And though in rebuilding mode, thus skipping marching contests this year, such contest are in the future plans.
And speaking of the future, he is a firm believer in band playing a big role in helping shape the lives of youngsters.
"Nowhere else do we ask students to do 10 different things at one time, just to sing or play a note on their instrument. It takes 10 different skills to make that happen, which means that students involved in the performing arts are becoming multi-taskers, and that is something our world needs more of.," he said. "Administrators sometimes need to be reminded that there is more going on with band than just playing in the stands on a Friday night, and band is a byproduct of having football.
"If one were to take a look at the larger districts where middle schools are not tied directly to high schools, one would see there are strong middle school and junior high band programs that exist separate from football or any other sport. They exist because being in fine arts gives those that want that to be their niche a place to belong."
Fisher said being a member of a band will suddenly give the individual student a sense of purpose and belonging. In band, it is an all-or-nothing activity. If even one person is not doing their job or carrying their own weight, he said it reflects on the entire band.
"Now, we do have opportunities for individual successes by trying out and making all-region band as well as performing a solo at the annual region solo contest. But, when the band performs as a whole, it is everybody on the stage or on the field or in the stands," he said. "Being a member of band teaches you very important skills such as teamwork, time management, conflict resolution, problem solving, enhances creativity, leadership development, not to mention the physical traits you develop that you would not otherwise."
Coming from the high school music scene in the Fort Worth area, Fisher can speak first-hand about its strength. He wants the Peaster band to be one they speak of in years to come.
"I think it is very strong. Now, I do think that a bit too much attention is put on the programs in Dallas and Collin County when there is really good work and good teaching going on in Tarrant, Parker, and Johnson Counties," he said. "But, I think if some key people started doing some things similar to what is being done over there, the attention will turn to what is going on over here, especially in the smaller schools like mine.
"Too many of these kids work too hard and receive very little recognition outside of their own schools and yet, they deserve it just as much."