A life, from street-sweeper to band director

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MIDLAND, Texas (AP) - Music is the love of his life, the grandeur that moves him to greater spiritual heights, an ennobling passion, from jiving and playing marching band music to celebrating orchestral and church music.

“God has a purpose for all of us from birth,” Doxey Jerome Hill told the Midland Reporter-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1nLBfke). At age 93, Hill radiates the gentility of peace and gratitude, a life well-lived. “I have the sweetest life that ever happened.”

There was thankfulness in his work, even in earning a silver dime an hour toiling in the Great Depression, and a lifetime of bliss in making music his pastime and career.

“I can go scriptural” if need be, said Hill, who taught music lessons at Macedonia Baptist Church.

Making and teaching music became his calling and especially so in playing the beloved baritone horn, his choice brass instrument in orchestra and marching band. For Hill, the trombone, the baritone’s cousin, is his choice for playing popular stage band music, which he notably did in 1943 after he was drafted into the U.S. Army in World War II.

While stationed at “The Gap” (Fort Indiantown Gap) in Pennsylvania, Hill ventured into Harrisburg, the state capital, and joined up with Big Band trombonist Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.

“He had the sweetest trombone, and I tried to imitate him,” said Hill, who forthwith hummed Dorsey’s theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”

“The baritone is the sweetest horn ever built” and, perhaps, the sweetest that “ever lived,” he said. That would be so, since Hill revels in the bright-to-mellow timbre of the beautiful baritone, his musical romance. Over the years, he has retired his horns, baritone to trombone, and plays the piano in his Midland home.

“Music is an inspiration to your heart,” said his pianist-violinist daughter, Norma Jean Hill-Lewis, a 69-year-old retired music teacher, who played the piccolo “between the tubas” in her father’s marching band at Midland’s George Washington Carver High School.

“Daddy is my all-in-all,” she said of her father. “He looks after me, cares for me.”

The proof of Hill’s faith and vision is in his life, such as the joyful years from 1956 into 1968 when he was the director of the marching band, stage band and orchestra at Carver High School.

“I love it,” said Hill, who became immensely versatile in his horn-playing beginning in the 1920s at age 8 on the euphonium, a virtual twin to the baritone horn, in his Austin hometown.

“You never work a day in your life when you play in a band,” he said, even when he was working dawn to dusk in his schoolwork, teaching and directing.

In 1968 after Carver Senior High School was closed in the integration movement in Midland, Hill took up teaching history at Alamo Junior High School.

His life fits well in celebrating Black History Month, which was organized in 1926 to coincide with the February birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln in 1809 and abolitionist-social reformer-orator Frederick Douglass in 1818.

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