• February 18, 2020

Former PHS orchestra director dies - Odessa American: ECISD

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Former PHS orchestra director dies

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Posted: Monday, January 20, 2020 2:35 pm

Former Permian High School Orchestra Director Kathy Fishburn died Jan. 19 in Amarillo. She was 72.

Arrangements are being handled by Schooler Funeral Home in Amarillo. Graveside services are at 3 p.m. Friday at Llano Cemetery, 2900 S. Hayes St., and a memorial service is at 4 p.m. Friday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 3402 S. Jackson St.

Fishburn was very well respected across the state and was a prolific composer and arranger, Permian Orchestra Director Todd Berridge said.

She was the first orchestra director at PHS, said Berridge, who was one of her students.

He said Fishburn took Satin Strings to the 1997 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, to the inauguration of the president of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico and to France for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, as well as for the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Berridge said Fishburn started at Bonham Junior High in 1979 and was moved over to Permian by Charles Nail, former PHS band and orchestra director and Ector County ISD director of fine arts. Fisburn served from 1989-1999. She was orchestra director at Tascosa High School in Amarillo and executive director of the Greater Southwest Music Festival. She had been head of or involved in many state music organizations. 

Berridge said Fishburn was an amazing motivator and a fantastic educator.

“I never knew a kid that disliked her,” Berridge said.

Professionally, he said, Fishburn was an amazing woman who touched so many people across the country. He added that she was a dynamic presence on the podium, but “such a sweet lady.”

“We knew this was going to be a sad day,” he said.

Berridge said he learned a lot from Fishburn about how to deal with students in rehearsal. He said she was kind.

Nail said she did a great job with the Permian orchestra, especially the Satin Strings.

She was hired by the late J.R. McEntyre, a PHS band director, orchestra director and music administrator for ECISD. Nail said he did hire Fishburn as PHS orchestra director.

“She did a great job with the Permian orchestra while she was there, especially with the Satin Strings segment of the orchestra. I started Satin Strings the last year I was at Permian High School. Kathy sort of took it and ran with it,” Nail said.

He added that Satin Strings became highly regarded in the community under her direction.

“She was the one that really put it on the map. She made a trip to France with the orchestra to commemorate D-Day, I think the 50th anniversary while she was Permian High School director. It just really made the Satin Strings an elite group,” Nail said.

As a person, Nail, who is executive director of UIL Music Region 6, said Fishburn was a “wonderful, serious musician.”

“She was an all-state baritone player in high school, but she was also a fabulous string bass player,” he said.

Fishburn was born to Fred and Evelyn Meadows in Memphis on June 18, 1947. She is a 1965 graduate of Amarillo High School. As a student there, her obituary said, she was committed to the Sandie Band and Orchestra. She knew she wanted to major in music.  She completed degrees in Proficiency Certificate for Double Bass at the Sherwood Conservatory in Chicago and West Texas State University.

She taught orchestra in Texas for 47 years and had recently retired from Tascosa High School as the director of orchestra. 

Survivors include her mother Evelyn Hill, son, Chris Greenley and wife Sarah of Yukon, Okla., with their daughters Sophie and Daphne. Chris is also a musician; sister Rhonda and husband Doug Buie of Plainview; niece Carissa Hamilton and family of Saginaw and longtime friend Billy Prescott.

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