COOKEVILLE – When the National Band Association announced Joseph Hermann, Tennessee Tech University director of bands emeritus, as one of three people to be inducted into their Hall of Fame of Distinguished Conductors this past December, the first thing Hermann felt was shock.
“It was an overwhelming thing,” he said. “Including the three of us who are being added this year, there are 63 people in this hall of fame. The people who are on that list are just unbelievable, like John Philip Sousa: the March King, known for ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’ And then there’s people like Edwin Franko Goldman, Karl King and Henry Fillmore – people who are really amazing. Then you look at this and hear that your name is going in there with them. It’s just so unbelievable.”
Hermann almost didn’t attend the convention where the honor was announced, even though he typically made it a point to attend. Out of the last 52 years, he has only missed four of the annual conventions. When he expressed to his wife, Kay, that he thought he might skip the December 2021 meeting, he was surprised when she protested. He was even more surprised when he got a call from a friend who pressured him even harder, claiming that one of Hermann’s good friends was going to be named to the hall of fame and that this was something he shouldn’t miss.
“He said, ‘Joseph, listen to me. I want you to think about this. This is one of your best friends in the world, so I want you to think about this. And when you thought about it, and you decide that you’re going, you call me back.’ Then when I tried to argue, he said, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to end this conversation right now because I want you to do the introduction.’”
Hermann finally agreed to go and prepared the introductory speech for his friend who he had been told was receiving the honor. However, when he got to the convention, he was stunned to find his own name being announced as one of the winners. His wife and his friends had been in on the secret.
“It took me days to get over it. I was dumbstruck,” said Hermann. “My wife, she said, ‘You don’t even seem excited about this.’ And I said, “No, it doesn’t seem right. I still can’t believe it!’”
Hermann worked at Tennessee Tech between 1989 and 2017, and won the Outstanding Faculty Award for professional service, in addition to many other awards from national band associations. He served on the board of directors for the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, and later served as its 72nd president.
He remembers his colleagues at Tennessee Tech as one of his favorite aspects of his career at the university. He says it was the music department’s comradery that enabled them to make some great things happen for their students.
“People in far flung areas always regarded that program as something very special, and they wanted their students to come to Tech,” Hermann said. “And as a result, we had some unbelievable things that took place at Tennessee Tech that normally only happen at the state’s flagship schools. Or in some cases, even in those flagship schools, they’re not able to do what we did.”
They were able to play in major state and national conventions, such as the American Bandmasters Association Convention in Florida and the Music Educators National Conference in Kansas.
“That kind of honor is what I think really positioned the program at Tennessee Tech to receive the respect that it deserved, because people heard us in different locations at national levels, and they realized that we’re not a little junior college,” Hermann said. “We’re the real deal.”