Temple High School is home to the oldest jazz program in the state of Texas. Since 1952, jazz education has been part of the Temple ISD fine arts curriculum with dedicated class periods at the high school and middle school levels under the guidance of founding director, Durward Howard. Under Mr. Howard’s direction, the Temple High School’s premiere jazz ensemble started as the Temple Starlighters originally functioning as a dance band for the surrounding communities. Armed with 192 tunes in their repertoire, the group began a weekly radio show on KTEM in 1955 to much fanfare!
A name change was required as their reputation grew thanks in part to their weekly radio show. There was a popular professional group using the name “Starlighters”, so Howard changed it to the Temple Hi-Lites. The name would eventually evolve to the current version of Temple Highlighters.
As more and more publishing companies made original swing and jazz selections available to the public in the mid 1960s, the group continued with its dance band roots, but also added in selections of big band contemporaries and participated in stage band contests as they grew in popularity. Mr. Howard would shift the curriculum focus to the lab band method as modeled by pioneering universities who began to offer jazz studies as a degree and career path.
In 1975, Howard turned over leadership duties of the Temple Highlighters his assistant director David Stockberger. Former Highlighter directors include Phillip Aikman, Tom Forgue, Mark Nalley, Tim Taylor, Mike Oulette, Brent Colwell, Jon McPhail, Robert Medina, and Brent Mathesen.
Today, the Temple Highlighters continue to serve as the premier jazz ensemble of Temple High School. They have a second big band, the Temple Blues, that serves as the training ground for admission into the premier group in addition to various student combos. Feeding into Temple High School is three middle school jazz programs that each have classes for beginning and advanced middle school jazz bands.
Regular performances within the community of Temple have included:
- Semester Performances
- Temple Bloomin’ Fest
- Lion’s Club Follies
- Temple Rotary South Annual Fundraising Gala
- CAC Contemporaries Fundraising Gala
- Temple Education Foundation Academic Recognition Banquet
- Arts & Jazz Festival hosted by the City of Temple
- Music to Help Others hosted Christ Episcopal Church
- Friends of Texas Public Education
- Central Texas Jazz Society Guest Artists events
The Temple Highlighters have received Outstanding Performance Awards and Outstanding Soloist Awards at some of the finest jazz festivals the state of Texas has to offer. Festivals include, but are not limited to:
- Temple Jazz Festival
- Blinn College Jazz Festival
- Addison Jazz Festival
- Jimmy Simmons Jazz Festival at Lamar University
- Sam Houston State University Bill Watrous Jazz Festival
- Texas Christian University Jazz Festival
- Fiesta Jazz Festival at St. Mary’s University (San Antonio)
- Longhorn Jazz Festival at the University of Texas at Austin
- Georgetown Jazz Festival
- Tarleton State University Jazz Festival
Adjudicators outside of Texas have also recognized the superior talent of the Temple Highlighters. National accolades include:
- Demonstration Band for the Essentially Ellington Band Director Academy (2003) hosted by Jazz @ Lincoln Center in New York City
- Invited finalist to the Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition on two occasions (2004, 2011) hosted by Jazz @ Lincoln Center in New York City
- Festival Winner of the Essentially Ellington Regional Festival (2011, 2012) in Lafayette, LA and performed with Wycliffe Gordon (2011) and Pharez Whitted (2012) in the festival’s closing performance
- 2nd Place finish in the Savannah (GA) Music Festival’s Swing Central Jazz (2012) with a featured performance with Jon Faddis
- Featured Ensemble with Roger Ingram at the 2014 Jazz Education Network Annual Conference (Dallas, TX)
- Festival Winner at the Basically Basie Competition (2016) in Kansas City, KS
- Featured Ensemble with Tom “Bones” Malone at the 2017 Jazz Education Network Annual Conference (New Orleans, LA)
- National Winners of the National Jazz Honors Project in 2012, 2013, 2017, and 2021
The Temple Highlighters are currently under the direction of Marcos Duran. Mr. Duran was a member of the band from 2001-2003 and is the first alumni to serve as director of this jazzensemble. Mr. Duran received his degrees from Tarleton State University (BM) and Baylor University (MM). He is currently in his 12th year of teaching (all with Temple ISD) and has experience teaching music to students from kindergarten to college. Mr. Duran is the proud husband of wife Jennifer (Tarleton Class of ’07) and proud father to his two children, Preston and Morgan.