Weatherford News

Trading boots for a baton Marine turned choral director still leading

Mac Chestnut works with an ensemble at WHS.
Mac Chestnut works with an ensemble at WHS. Lance Winter

You can’t always judge a book by its cover. An idiom most of us have heard growing up, and the perfect example of Weatherford’s own, Mac Chestnut.

As a child he’d tell you he lived all over the state before coming to Weatherford where he began school as a freshman at Weatherford High School - (WHS).

In 1998 Chestnut, 21, joined the Marines following a rough patch in his life. During his time in the service he became a member of Marine Air Support Squadron 1 and deployed in support of multiple exercises and missions in his four years of service.

“We controlled close air support missions; any type of helicopter insertions,” Chestnut said. “We coordinated ground fire and air fire; we were procedural control.”

Unfortunately, at the close of his first tour of duty, Chestnut sustained a serious injury that ended his military career.

“I was really disappointed because I had been accepted into a ROTC scholarship enlistment program,” Chestnut added. “I was going to be paid the salary of a sergeant and go to college. I didn’t want to be hurt.”

So, after a four year hitch in the service, Chestnut received a medical discharge and following a brief stint at Cherry Point Marine Base in North Carolina, he and his family made it back to Texas in 2003.

Chestnut wasted little time getting into college. During that time his wife worked nights so he could get his degree.

“I saw going back to school as a second chance at doing what I wanted to do,” he said.

He started at Weatherford College, where attended his first year, then transferred to TCU to finish up his bachelors in Music Education.

Yep, the former Marine traded his boots for a baton, and a career in music.

“For me music was my escape,” Chestnut said. “I certainly didn’t want to get hurt when I was, but I knew it wasn’t going to get better. It was music that helped me get through that.”

He said while stationed in North Carolina he sang as part of a community choir, played the piano and sang in church - even at chapel on base.

“I love singing,” he said.

For the last four years that love for music has elevated the WHS choral department with Chestnut as the Choral Director. He also oversees musical talent at other campuses like Hall and Tison Middle Schools.

Asked if there were similarities from his time spent in the service and as choral director, he said it was simple. “Good leadership is good leadership, no matter what the goal is.”

“There is a lot of leading is by example,” Chestnut said. “If you set your expectations and give the kids the resources and tools to achieve a goal, they’ll do it.”

When he first started Chestnut said about 86 kids participated in one of just three choirs. Today, the program has grown to more than 400 kids with a multitude of opportunities.

“We have a choir for everybody,” Chestnut said. “We have 220 kids that participate in our program grades 9-12, along with 6-7 performing ensembles.”

Chestnut said choral art is “pure.”

“You’re not manipulating an instrument to make a sound,” he said. “It’s humans expressing themselves. I tell this to people I go to church with - God gave you that instrument because He wanted to hear it - it doesn’t matter what you think about the quality.”

Chestnut said for some kids choir is something they “belong to.”

“Texas is one of the few states in the nation that still has music as a required part of the curriculum. Every kid in Texas is required to take a fine art to graduate,” Chestnut added. “In lots of other places that’s not the case. You see programs like ours being eliminated all across the country.”

Some of his proudest memories have been bringing back the accolades to the once proud program.

“It’s great to see these Sweepstakes Awards come back to our school,” Chestnut said. “We really have some great kids.”

WHS Principal Kristy Dowd said Mac is a man of character and integrity that helps all students hone their gifts and talents in the area of music.

“He believes in serving others in the community and gives our students opportunities to do the same,” Dowd said. “It's a privilege to have Mac Chestnut as a member of our Weatherford High School family, impacting the lives of students each and every day. We have one of the best choir programs in the state because of great students and dedicated educators like Mac Chestnut leading the way.​"

Folks can come see the choir and many others perform on stage during the performance of Guys & Dolls beginning Thurs., Jan. 19- 22 on the campus of WHS at the Jerry and Vicki Durant Auditorium.

“It’s a big collaboration that includes the theater department, band, orchestra and many others,” Chestnut said.

Performances begin at 7 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday. General admission is just $10 and children 3 and under are free.

Lance Winter: 817-594-9902, Ext. 102,

Twitter:@LanceWinter

Guys & Dolls performance

Folks can see the choir and many others perform on stage during the performance of Guys & Dolls beginning Thurs., Jan. 19- 22 on the campus of WHS at the Jerry and Vicki Durant Auditorium.

Performances begin at 7 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday. General admission is just $10 and children 3 and under are free.

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