MANATEE -- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents its Lifetime Achievement Award to someone whose entire body of work has been rare and exceptional.
The Florida Bandmasters Association presents a similar tribute -- they call it
the Oliver Hobbs Award -- and a few days ago it was presented to Manatee High School director of bands Jim Bruce.
Bruce, who has been at Manatee High since 1988 and whose students have compiled an enviable culture of success, was nominated for the award by his local district members.
Recognition of excellence
The intent of the award is to recognize Florida Bandmasters Association members who have consistently done an exceptional job year after year in the position of band director, according to the award criteria.
"The feeling is hard to describe because it's one of the highest awards that we can receive in our profession," Bruce said Tuesday. "I felt very humble and at the same time excited."
Bruce's name was announced Jan. 14 before a crowd of 600 during a session of the Florida Music Educators Association Conference at the Tampa Convention Center.
It was also announced during the conference that Mark Spreen, band director at Riverview High School in Sarasota, was named to the Florida Bandmasters Association's Hall of Fame.
Winners of the Hobbs award must have received superior ratings for the marching, concert and jazz bands at least 75 percent of the time at the District Concert Band and Marching Band Music Performance Assessments. They also had to achieve outstanding results at the District Solo/Ensemble Music Performance Assessments as well as volunteered service to the profession, the critera states.
The Oliver Hobbs Award is named for the former band director at Leon High School in Tallahassee who, like Bruce, was able to produce exceptional bands year after year.
Superior rating for 28 years
Bruce has taken his Cane marching bands to state for the Florida Band Masters Association's Music Performance Assessment every year for the past 28 years and every single marching band has been rated "superior."
Bruce's jazz and concert bands have been nearly as perfect, with 26 out of 28 earning superior, he said.
"I think it's a love and passion for wanting the kids to be successful," said Bruce who is in his 32nd year teaching and 28th at Manatee High. "I felt that feeling growing up, which is what led me to do music professionally. I wanted our kids to know what it feels like. To achieve that, however, takes a lot of work and time. But that's my calling."
Class after class, students want to keep the Cane tradition of band success alive for themselves and Bruce, said Linda Boone, Manatee High's assistant band director who has been part of the Cane music scene since 1988.
"At first they want to do well for him," Boone said. "But then, as they are in the program longer, it becomes a real love for music and for playing music. That's what he instills in them."
Several teachers at Manatee High were members of Bruce's bands, includung Alan Johnson, a math teacher, Jenny Lages, an English teacher and Lages' sister, Kim Evans, now the band director at King Middle School.
"This award is so deserving," said Robyn Bell of State College of Florida. "This award not only shows Jim's commitment to his school and community but also to music education in the state of Florida. There are generations of students who came from Jim's program still making music locally and beyond. He's had quite the stretch. This is long overdue for Jim."
Bruce's caring and fun personality draws people to him, Boone said.
"I think the students and parents relate to him and students admire him greatly," Boone said.
Spreen also has a remarkable story, Bell said.
"Mark attended Riverview High as a student and has come back to be band director for more than 20 years," Bell said. "He is one of the most focused people. He has such a clear vision for his band program and he is tirelessly and relentlessly getting those students to hit their goals."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.