Sam Houston State University
Dr. Ralph Lee Mills began his clarinet career in the fourth grade under Dr. Raymond T. Bynum in the Abilene Texas Public Schools through elementary and high school where he played in both bands and orchestras and graduated in 1940. He continued his education at the University of Texas at Arlington majoring in music and studying from Robert Ernst., clarinetist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for two years before the United States Air Force required his service for the next thirty eight months as a bandsman, mostly in Utah and Colorado”, where he also played with the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra.
Following his discharge, he went directly to San Jose State University where he did most of his bachelor’s degree work from 1945 to 1947 and studied with a wonderful clarinet teacher., Thomas Eagen, who introduced him to the French School of clarinet playing, while playing in both the Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra. In 1947 he became director of the Lamesa High School Band and remained there until 1949 while finishing his Bachelor of Arts degree in performance from McMurry University in Abilene. From 1949 t01951 he was a band director with the Odessa Schools and member of the Odessa Symphony Orchestra. From 1951 to 1954 Mills was high school band director and coordinator of instrumental music in the Midland schools. In 1954 he became director and coordinator of music for the First Baptist Church, a position he held until 1959. During his years in Midland he was a member of the Midland Symphony Orchestra.
In 1960, Mills earned his master’s degree at the University of Southern California and then his doctorate from the same university while studying clarinet from Mitchell Lurie and playing with USC’s Symphony Orchestra, Opera Orchestra and Wind Orchestra. While still attending USC in 1961, he became director of instrumental music at the Garden Grove United High School District and was a member of the Anaheim Symphony Orchestra. In 1962 and 63, he was director of instrumental music at El Camino College in Torrance, California and also a member of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Mills returned to Texas in 1963 as Professor of Music, Director of Bands and Chairman of the Instrumental Division of Music at Sam Houston State University, a position he held for over twenty years while also serving as Director and clarinetist of the Faculty Woodwind Quintet and was also a member of the Houston Municipal Band. At SHSU he developed one of the fmest band programs in the nation. The performances of SHSU hands include the Texas Music Educators Association (5 times), College Band Directors National Association (4 times), Music Educators National Conference in Anaheim, California and the combined American Bandmasters Association/Japanese Bandmasters Association in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In 1976 Mills was named Texas Bandmaster of the Year by the Texas Bandmasters Association. His doctoral dissertation “Technical and Fundamental ‘Problems in the Performance of Clarinet Solo Literature” , includes an in depth study on basic fundamentals of clarinet playing and is one of the sources used in Frederick Westphal’s “Guide to Teaching Woodwinds”, editions 2 and 3. In May of 1988 the State of Texas Board of Regents, Texas State University System, passed a resolution designating Dr. Ralph L. Mills “Professor of Music and Director of Bands Emeritus at Sam Houston State University” to hold that title in perpetuity. The Resolution was signed by all board members and affixed with their seal. It was presented to him personally by the Board of Regents. Dr. Mills’ professional affiliations include The American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, Music Educators National Conference, Houston Professional Musicians Union, Pi Kappa Lamda, Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, and Kappa Kappa Psi. In 1992, Dr. Mills was inducted into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.