- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

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.

“We must view the closing of Carver Senior High School as another step forward in our search for excellence,” Principal C.A. (Curtis) Thomas wrote in the 1968 Carver yearbook, “The Carver Hornette.”

Like Carver the school and Carver the famed African-American scientist, Hill is steeped in history: “I’ve got so much of it,” too much to unravel.

One of seven children born to Jerome Hill and Ida Bell Doxie Hill, Doxey Hill noted his father was a talented amateur musician whose workaday life was that of an Austin broom-and-shovel street sweeper near the Texas State Capitol and that his mother was a seamstress.

“He could pick up any horn and make a decent sound, a gift,” Hill said of his father. “He didn’t know one note from another.”

Growing up, perhaps the “best thing that could have happened” to the Hill children was that their parents encouraged - compelled - their children to complete their homework in the schools and onto college, including the traditionally black Austin-based Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College, which merged in the 1950s to become Huston-Tillotson University.

In turn, their parents essentially got their formal school and college education “through their children,” listening to their children’s academic discussions and reading their textbooks.

Hill found his musical haven at Carver.

The school was named after the celebrated scientist, inventor, botanist and educator who was born into slavery in the 1860s. George Washington Carver’s acclaimed genius was recognized by Time magazine, which in 1941 named him the “Black Leonardo” in likening Carver to Leonardo da Vinci, the great Renaissance Italian scientist, inventor and polymath.

Carver, honored for his talents and achievements especially in agriculture and in the versatile peanut, penned: “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

Like Carver, Hill shunned excuses.

Like his parents, he was conscientious and diligent. He explored his options. In school, he studied music and frequented the library. “Boys had to take music,” he said, since physical education was not offered at his school.

“I would do anything to go to school, to make a dollar,” even a dime an hour in the Great Depression and in the 1940s, working in Austin’s farmers market and, later on, washing pots and pans in a cafeteria for the hourly dime, earning 25 cents an hour as a fry cook and then thrilled to be making $4 a day in training to be a chef. “I was making money.”

But a physician advised him that he would go blind working in a hot and smoky kitchen.

Hill returned to music. His musical virtuosity got him a job as music director of Austin’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. While he became popular and was greatly in demand, he considered a career in teaching.

Lacking a college degree, Hill enrolled in Samuel Huston College, graduated in 1951, and recalled earning $2,500 a year in the Austin area.

Apprised of Hill’s reputation, Thomas offered Hill a teaching job in Midland.

Doxey, we can’t pay you no more than $4,000,” Thomas told Hill. Along with the salary, Hill would be guaranteed an additional $1,000 a year if he could “produce a band” and so he did with flair and attention to detail.

Hill reflected on a fulfilled life.

“There’s something for all of us,” he said. “As soon as you find it, stick with it. Make it greater,” which he did through his musical gifts and his romantic penchant for brass instruments, especially the baritone so graceful in his embrace.

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Information from: Midland Reporter-Telegram, http://www.mywesttexas.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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