A little piece of Austin Hilla

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A little piece of Austin Hilla

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Hillcrest’s new band director, Austin Hilla, hails from Houston. His passion for music began when he was little.  

“I remember… being four or five and there was an old forties movie musical called High Society and there’s a jazz band with Louis Armstrong and… Bing Crosby…” Hilla said, “there was a double bass… I really liked the double bass part and I remember grabbing an old vacuum and acting like a double bass player.”

Hilla recounted the way his elementary and middle school classes affected his future decision in high school to study as a band director in college: “I didn’t feel like I was very good at trombone… and my mother and father said ‘you have to do high school band for one year, … we’re making you do it and then by the end of…  freshman year you can tell us if you want to do something else and we’ll support you.’”

Hilla made it to high school where he began summer marching band.

“I was in love with it. I immediately felt this belonging… we were doing something that was …. impressive and bigger than myself and those around me.” Hilla stated. Hilla gives five teachers credit for influencing his decision: Kyle Coleman and David MacArthur (Hilla’s college band directors), Cice Prudehomme (his high school theatre teacher), Gil Long (Hilla’s college tuba instructor), and Billy Adair (his jazz band teacher in high school).

“Billy Adair… was a really cool guy and… a really good jazz writer. I think the way I am in the classroom is because of him.” Hilla said. “CiCe Prudehomme… is the one who made me feel like I could change people for the better… she made me a better person. [She] made me want to be a teacher.”

However, the decision to be a band director came much sooner than college.

“Halfway through sophomore year… a senior when I was a freshman, went to Vanderbilt University for trumpet performance…I asked him how school was… on… a messenger and [I loved] the conversation…” Hilla replied, “he told me [Vanderbilt has a music education program that’s pretty good and you can get your masters degree in about five years; and I said,’that’s awesome, I can be a band director for a living?!?’ and … that was when I decided… to be a band director.”

Hilla plays tuba, bass trombone, guitar, jazz voice, flute, clarinet, saxophone, french horn, harp, cello and percussion and has played each for 15 to 8 years each. He attended Vanderbilt University “called the Ivy league of the South.”

Hilla believes  people need to trust that “their teachers want them to do well and get them through the concrete stuff,” Hilla said “[people] don’t spend the time chopping wood. You gotta practice… learn the concrete and do it correctly… that is really hard. After you do that…  you get to have fun with it.”

Hilla’s advice for students:

“To people I teach in the department I’m in, I hope they’re emboldened and enheartened to think… what they’re doing is worthwhile and what they’re doing is felt and…  appreciated.” Hilla concluded,“People who… are not in the performing arts program, I hope they find something in school they love; that’s not just school like a club or an academic interest and… hold onto it and do as much as they can– more than the requirements: because… you become happier with what you’re doing and… when you go to college, you know what you want to do. You have an identity. Be good at it, love it and have it make you better, that is the most important thing you can do in school.”  


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