Gary Brandes inducted into MMEA Hall of Fame

Gary Brandes

Gary Brandes, an associate teaching professor of music and UMSL’s director of bands, was one of five inducted into the Missouri Music Educators Hall of Fame Jan. 25 at its annual conference. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Gary Brandes had a pretty good idea something was up as he milled about at the Missouri Music Educators Association’s annual In-Service Workshop/Conference.

“I would see somebody at the conference, and they would come up to me and say, ‘Well, congratulations!’” Brandes said.

It happened at least three times during the event held Jan. 23-26 at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri. Each time, Brandes would reply with a puzzled look or maybe a sheepish smile. But he figured there had to be something they all knew.

He finally got let in on the secret during the conference’s third general session on its final night, Jan. 25. That was when Brandes learned that he was one of five chosen for the MMEA Hall of Fame.

“It’s a remarkable honor,” said Brandes, an associate teaching professor in the Department of Music at the University of Missouri–St. Louis as well as its director of bands. “This association, MMEA, has been really good for me. It’s a remarkable group of educators, and everything we do is in the name of music education. I look at the list of people who are in the hall of fame, and it’s all people that I admire and respect.”

Brandes has been a member of MMEA for roughly four decades, going back to when he first started teaching in his hometown, Wright City, Missouri. He would later teach at Hazelwood East High School, Fort Zumwalt North and Fort Zumwalt South during a 28-year public school teaching career.

Brandes, who earned his degree in music education at UMSL in 1978 and later completed a master’s degree in conducting at the University of Missouri–Columbia in 1992, assumed more prominent roles in MMEA not long after returning to his alma mater to teach 12 years ago.

In 2010, he became MMEA’s college/university vice president, a role he held until 2012. From 2012-14, he was the organization’s president-elect, then its president from 2014-16. Last year, he completed his term as immediate past-president.

He believes firmly in the organization’s mission to promote music education.

“Educators are always being asked to do more with less every day, and music education is no different,” Brandes said. “I think in Missouri we’re fortunate enough that we have a fine-art requirement in all of our schools, so students have to have some form of fine arts to graduate, and music is one of those. There are some states that don’t.

“I think that in Missouri anyway, the viability of music education as a well-rounded part of every student’s education is alive and well and very much a part of every school. We’re pretty pleased and proud of that.”

Brandes has done work to help ensure it remains that way. During his last six years as an elected officer in MMEA, he made annual trips to Washington to meet with legislators and advocate for funding for music education. He met several congressmen from Missouri and elsewhere as well as then-Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“MMEA had done it before, but there had been a bit of a lull in access,” Brandes said. “In 2012, we had access again, so it was just one of those things where I was part of the delegation that went to Capitol Hill and got to go into those offices.

“To sit at a policy table with legislators was a dream come true, and I’ve done that here at the state level, as well.”

It was that work on behalf of MMEA, combined with his many years in the classroom, that led to his hall of fame selection.

Brandes’ only regret from the experience was being whisked to a reception soon after the hall of fame announcement, so he missed the opportunity to watch and listen to eight UMSL vocal music students performing as part of the 2019 All-Collegiate Choir during the conference’s closing night concert. But he did get to hear them sing earlier during a reception for UMSL alumni.

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