Carl Fillmore McMath was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia in 1935, and attended schools in Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia before attending and graduating from Winyah High School, in Georgetown, South Carolina. He began his music career in the fourth grade by playing the trumpet because his older bother also played it.
After graduating from high school in 1953, McMath was awarded a competitive music scholarship at the University of South Carolina where he served as band property manager and librarian. He also served as President of the University Band and graduated in 1957 with the A.B. degree in Education. McMath also enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1953 and was honorably discharged from service in 1961. While in college, he was a member of the Carolina Opera Orchestra.
After his first teaching position at Buford High School in Lancaster, McMath went to Chicora High in Charleston Heights and in 1962 he transferred to R.B. Stall where became their first band director. While in Charleston he was also solo trumpeter for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Carl graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College, now Appalachian State University, in 1964 with a M.A. degree in Music. Since August of that year, he and his family have made their home in Spartanburg. It is here in Spartanburg that his duties of developing and teaching and district’s junior high bands have been so successful.
McMath was elected vice-president of the South Carolina Band Directors Association in 1963. He worked hard as an officer and committee chairman for the association and was always willing to assist with jobs that require attention. At one time or another, he served on every committee. One of his accomplishments includes being chairman of the committee which provided the first handbook for the association. This committee also initiated the SCBDA Outstanding Performance Award.
While teaching at McCracken Junior High School, the Eagle Band performed for the South Carolina Music Educators Association twice. In 1980, the McCracken band also performed at the Atlanta Convention of the American School Band Directors Association where it received an extended standing ovation. Bands under his direction received thirteen consecutive superior ratings at the SCBDA Concert Band Festival.
He was elected to membership in the American School Band Directors Association in 1965 and to the executive board in 1986. In 1970, the music department of Appalachian State University inducted him into membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, a national music honor society. Additionally, in 1983, he was elected President of the Spartanburg County Education Association. He has been a member of the Spartanburg Symphony Orchestra and is active as a performer and private teacher. McMath is a former member of the renowned Smoky Mountain Brass Band based in Asheville, NC. He is also a member of the Theta Chapter of Phi Beta Mu International School Bandmaster’s Fraternity and received the fraternity’s Outstanding Bandmaster Award in 1986. He also received the prestigious Career Service Award of the South Carolina Chapter of The American School Band Directors Association in 1999.
McMath served eleven Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches as part-time music director or orchestra director over a span of thirty-five years. He has been active as a clinician and adjudicator in North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. He has written articles on band that have been published in The School Musician Magazine, the Royal Marines (UK) Historical Journal, and Blue Band, the magazine of the Royal Marines Band Service (UK).
McMath is grateful to the following teachers who helped shape his career: J.R. Kennedy, Richard Zimmerman, Pat Garnett, William Spencer, Nicholas Erneston, Robert Chesebro, Gary Malvern, Bob Barr, Harold Bachman, William Revelli, and Walter Marden.
He is married to his loyal and faithful partner of form years, his dear wife Nina. they have two daughters; Carol, a chief counselor at Spartanburg Mental Health Center and Elizabeth, who is pursuing a nursing career.
Reginald Thomasson was born in Warren, Arkansas in 1913. After attending public schools in Arkansas and Colorado, he graduated from Douglas High School in Oklahoma City in 1932. Mr. Thomasson then entered The Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina (later named South Carolina State College – SCSC) in Orangeburg where he earned a B.S. degree in 1936 and an A.B. degree in 1940. He later earned the M.A. degree in music educator from California State University at Los Angeles. He did further studies at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music in Missouri and at both the University of California and University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
During his time at SCSC, Thomasson served as director of the band during both his junior and senior years. As a result, the college offered him a position on the music faculty to direct the band and jazz ensemble. One of his early contributions was a composition entitled “Evening Song” which was later adopted by SCSC. In fact, Thomasson received the Orangeburg Alumni Chapter Award in recognition and appreciation of this song, which is still played on the campus every evening.
Thomasson returned to SCSC after the war and helped to expand the bands to include concert, jazz, and even a marching band. He organized the ROTC Band and began to assist and then become director of the Marching 101 Band until his retirement at which time he received the title of “Band Director Emeritus”. Thomasson’s vision or the potential of future musicians was set into motion with the founding of the South Carolina Association of High School Bandmasters for which he received the Founders Award in 1961.
It was through Mr. Thomasson that Dr. William Grant Still, a noted black composer and conductor, was selected to be a clinician for the 1971 South Carolina Colleges All-State Band. This was the first time that the state organization held a meeting at a predominately black institution and utilized a black guest conductor. He was also involved with the College Band Directors National Association on the state and national levels and helped to implement the College All-State Band through the South Carolina Association of CBDNA.
Thomasson influenced the lives of many students at SCSC who become professional musicians and educators and would later influence the lives of future generations of musicians. He has received numerous awards and honors for his years of service to music education. These accomplishments include: an “Honorary Member” of the SCSC Jazz Hall of Fame, 1986; the Dedicated Service Award in 1973 from the South Carolina Association of High School Bandmasters; the Dedicated Service Award in 1977 from the SCSC School of Education; and the Contribution to Humanity in Music Education Award from the C.A. Reid School of Music in Charleston. His contributions and accomplishments in music earned him recognition in several publications including: Who’s Who in the Southeast, Leaders in Education; and the International Biographical Dictionary. On April 12, 1991, the band hall at SCSC was named the Reginald R. Thomasson Band Hall.
Mr. Thomasson is a member of a number of organizations which include: CBDNA; Music Educators National Conference; cater member of the Zeta Eta Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi Band Fraternity; and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity. In 1983 he received the 50+ Anniversary Award from the Alpha Lambda Chapter of SCSC.
He was an elder at St. Luke Presbyterian Church (USA) in Orangeburg where he directed the chancel choir and rendered services to the gospel choir. In the Orangeburg community, he was active with the American Red Cross, the Auxiliary at the Regional Medical Center, and the Cooperative Church Ministries.
Mr. Thomasson married the former Carmen H. Sulton in 1945 and settled in Orangeburg in 1949. The Thomasson’s had one daughter and two grandchildren. Mr. Thomasson passed away in 1990.