Longtime band director retiring

Longtime Odessa High School Associate Director of Bands and Percussion is having his last Evening of Percussion May 18. He has been with ECISD, only at OHS, for 29 years. (Courtesy Photo)

For the first time, Odessa High School Associate Director of Bands and Percussion Director Jimmy Olague will have two shows for his Evening of Percussion — May 18 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The show will be at the OHS Performing Arts Center. General admission is $15; reserved seating is $25. You can get them through the Odessa High School Bronco Band Facebook page.

“We want to try to give a bunch of my alumni a chance to come see the show. Hopefully, they will,” Olague said.

Olague has been with Ector County ISD for 29 years, all at Odessa High School and he is retiring. A reception is planned for 3 p.m. May 19 at the Odessa High School Band Hall.

A native of Big Spring, Olague earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Texas Tech University.

Olague has played the drums since he was 4 years old.

“I knew then that music was going to be part of my life in some shape or form,” Olague said.

A lot has changed since he began his career.

“The kids have more distractions. The part about taking the instrument home and practicing at home isn’t as important as it used to be. Therefore, being successful takes a lot more work, especially during the school day. Because these kids, you have to practice for them instead of them being disciplined enough to take your instrument home and practice. We have a handful that will still actually practice an instrument at home and prepare. But again, 97% of them don’t and it’s just something that it’s a different culture now that I’ve had to have gotten used to and it’s tough,” Olague said.

He added that playing an instrument is one thing where there is no machine that can help you.

“You have to provide everything yourself. The instrument has valves and fingerings that you press down, keys that you press down, but other than that … there’s not a machine you can hook up to” and have it play for you, Olague said.

He added that losing Ector College Prep Middle School to a charter program drove the number of students joining band downward. Without Ector, OHS had only Crockett and Bowie Middle Schools as feeder schools for the fine arts programs.

Ector will rejoin ECISD next fall.

“Our numbers fell; the number of talented kids that I had also went down a lot. … It just seems like everywhere we turn, kids are being pulled, come to this campus, come to this campus. There are so many opportunities now that sometimes I feel that fine arts is not an important thing in people’s lives. It’s sad and it’s exhausting trying to be be successful,” Olague said.

Olague works with other schools and plays in a professional group called Current Nine, which plays around West Texas. He still plans to do that and stay in Odessa.

“We will still be in Odessa, I’ll just be doing something different,” he said.

What he’ll miss is seeing the students change from beginning band to high school, seeing their talents grow and seeing them turn into “incredible young adults.”

“That’s probably the best part of the job. Seeing them be successful in whatever they’re doing in their lives,” not necessarily music, Olague said.

“I’ve had students become doctors and lawyers and policemen and firefighters and nurses and nurse practitioners. That’s amazing to see. Really cool,” he added.

One of the things he has also enjoyed is presenting new styles of music. The percussion concert will be all Latin music.

“The students have really taken into that. It’s our 20th year, so they expect it. They want to do it; they love it. And they know that it’s exciting and full of energy and high energy and they know that it’s different, that everybody does this, so me introducing that portion of it. That part of it has been really cool,” Olague said.

Lalo Davila from Middle Tennessee State University and Fausto Cuevas from Los Angeles will be the guests, as they have been nearly every year of the Evening of Percussion.

“Lalo has been been with me for all 20 years, and Fausto, this will be his 17th (year). They love coming to Odessa. They’re both Texas natives, first of all, so obviously they love the culture here, the food and coming back home. They look forward to it. When I drop them off at the airport after the concerts, it’s always are you going to use me next year, so I can put it on my calendar,” Olague said.

He hopes that Evening of Percussion will continue with whoever replaces him. Olague said the kids will let the new associate director know about the annual event.

“The other part is Permian starting to do the same thing now and so is Greenwood, so hopefully they will see what we started and how it’s starting to grow and will continue doing it here,” Olague said. “They’re using my same guest artists. We figured well, since they’re coming here, let’s just go ahead and do that. The young man (Tyler Serratto), a Permian student, taught with me and then he taught at Crockett for a year, so he knows how we do it. He’s been part of it before and when he took over at Permian he knew that he wanted to begin this over there. So he asked me for help and direction and I gave it to him because I think it’s a great thing. The more people that see it, and I think more people will enjoy it,” Olague said.

Permian will have an Evening of Percussion at 7 p.m. May 14 in the PHS auditorium.

The Evening of Percussion features students from sixth grade through high school. There will be about 75 students involved this year from Compass Academy Charter School, OHS and Bowie and Crockett Middle schools.

“The repertoire of what they’re playing gets better and stronger and harder. It’s all Latin style. Again, it’s high energy, it is not like a typical band concert,” Olague said.

Bill Harden, who was band director for many years at OHS, worked with Olague for decades.

“I had the privilege of working with Jimmy for 20 years at OHS and another four while I was still at Bowie. There was never a more loyal assistant and more important friend. He was always willing to do what was needed to help us provide great opportunities for our students. The students and parents loved him,” Harden said.

Executive Director of Fine Arts Aaron Hawley said everyone wishes Olague well.

“It’s with deep appreciation that we acknowledge Jimmy Olague’s longstanding commitment to ECISD. His profound care for both his musicianship, and most significantly his students is unmistakable. As he embarks on the next phase of his journey, we wish him the very best,” Hawley said.

Olague and his wife Denise have two daughters and four grandchildren.

For young people who want to pursue music as a career, Olague said it’s a great job.

“But it does take a lot of time and personal time. You need to be very passionate about what it is you’re doing because there’s also long hours, long working hours. Sometimes the reward financially is not as great as other professions. But the rewards of your students make up for that tenfold,” he added.