Apache Band Gold event honors Mensches, McGowan for decade of excellence

Jul 23, 2014 by

Rarely does someone come along who totally transforms a program and leads it to never-before-seen heights.

In the case of the TJC Apache Band, that unlikely event happened with not one or two, but three individuals! Call it “the perfect storm” of directors, if you will.

Tom Mensch, Heather Mensch and Tom McGowan, music educators at the top in their field, came together to change the TJC music scene forever.

These intrepid directors, each a performing musician in their own right, were honored by band alumni, Band Backers and current band members at a special dinner given in their honor on Jan. 25.

The event was held in the Apache Rooms and the guests enjoyed a wonderful meal catered by Aramark while being serenaded by former TJC musicians.

TJC band directors Tom McGowan, Tom Mensch and Heather Mensch were guests of honor at a banquet held Jan. 25 in the Apache Rooms. Pictured from left: Marc Nichelson, Apache Band alumnus; McGowan; Tom Mensch; Heather Mensch; and Don Fraser, TJC director of alumni affairs.

TJC band directors Tom McGowan, Tom Mensch and Heather Mensch were guests of honor at a banquet held Jan. 25 in the Apache Rooms. Pictured from left: Marc Nichelson, Apache Band alumnus; McGowan; Tom Mensch; Heather Mensch; and Don Fraser, TJC director of alumni affairs.

The host for the evening was former Apache Band member Marc Nichelson, who, along with fellow band alumnus Tyler Prock, orchestrated the evening. Special guests included Dr. Mike Metke, TJC president, and Jerry Bartos, who was a member of the first TJC band in 1947. Bartos has given the generous lead gift to name the lounge on the band floor of the Ornelas Residential Complex after the man who started it all, Doc Witt.

Twenty-five alumni joined Apache Band Gold, and attendees donated more than $3,000 to the Apache Band Heritage Endowment to honor the Mensches and McGowan on the permanent plaque in the “Doc” Witt Directors’ Lounge.

Former Apache Band members gave testimonials on how their lives were influenced by these directors.

Jake Penrod, who has continued to foster his music career as a country artist, has just released his new album of all original music called “Closer to Me” and continues to perform around the nation and on a nationally syndicated television show, spoke of the belief that these directors had in his abilities.

Katie Moe, who has continued her professional development since leaving TJC, now holds a Master of Arts in teaching mathematics and is an instructor at Southern Arkansas University, shared from her heart about the confidence that she gained by performing with the band.

J.R. Garen, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and is currently the junior high band director and assistant high school director at Central ISD, kept the audience in stitches with his humorous anecdotes about band life.

Tom Mensch had been officially inducted into TJC’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi national honorary band fraternity on May 24, 2005; but due to an oversight, he had never received his certificate, or shingle.

Tom Mensch was surprised with a Kappa Kappa Psi pin and framed shingle, making him an official member of the TJC chapter.

Tom Mensch was surprised with a Kappa Kappa Psi pin and framed shingle, making him an official member of the TJC chapter.

As a special surprise, Tom Mensch was presented his long-overdue shingle and welcomed into Kappa Kappa Psi by Jason Waller, former member of the Apache Band, member of the Apache Band Gold, and department chair for criminal justice, paralegal and public administration at TJC.

Don Fraser is TJC director of
alumni affiars.


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Alumni, News, Spring/Summer 2014

About the author

Don Fraser is the Director of Alumni Affairs at Tyler Junior College.