About Phi Beta Mu
Phi Beta Mu was established as a result of the respect and appreciation which the founder, Colonel Earl D. Irons, had for his professional associates. Col. Irons was Bandmaster and Chairman of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Arlington, then known as North Texas Agricultural College. He envisioned an organization that would honor outstanding band directors whose dedication and devotion to their profession were paramount, but whose admirable traits and services were not necessarily known nationally. He sought to honor deserving individuals on a state level similar to the manner in which he and Dr. D. O. Wiley had been honored by the American Bandmasters Association in 1936.
During the summer of 1937, while performing as a guest conductor and cornet teacher at the Texas Tech Summer Band Camp in Lubbock, Col. Irons had discussions with Dr. Wiley, Director of the Tech Band Camp, about his plan for this special organization. These two men decided that the time was right to start such an organization, and “Prof” Wiley assembled a group of prominent band directors teaching at the camp for several meetings with Col. Irons. The final meeting took place during a watermelon feast in Prof. Wiley’s backyard, where the decision to organize in the form of a national bandmasters fraternity was reached.
During the ensuing year, Col. Irons and others formulated the structure of the organization. Phi Beta Mu, subtitled National Bandmasters Fraternity, was selected as the name of the organization. Phi Beta Mu was interpreted to mean “Life, Love, and Music.” The colors chosen to represent the Fraternity were blue and white.
With the ideas gleaned from the earlier meetings at Texas Tech, the Constitution and Membership Oath were written and approved in the summer of 1938. The first official meeting was held at the Rice Hotel in Houston during the Texas Music Educators Association meeting in February of 1939.
In 1944, Dr. Milburn Carey, who was initiated into Alpha Chapter (Texas) in 1942, chartered Beta Chapter in Oklahoma. In 1946, at the invitation of Harold L. Walters, an honorary member of Beta Chapter, Dr. Carey chartered Gamma Chapter in Indiana.
In 1957, after further refinement of the national organization and Constitution by Jack Mahan of Dallas and R. C. “Chief” Davidson of Plainview, Texas, the Fraternity began to grow to include additional states. Mississippi was slated to be installed as the fourth chapter and was assigned Delta, but the installation was unavoidably delayed. Louisiana became the fourth chapter to be installed but was assigned the name Epsilon since Delta had already been allotted to Mississippi.
Phi Beta Mu became an international organization in 1975 with the installation of chapters in Graz, Austria and Alberta, Canada. Additional chapters have been installed in Japan as well as Nova Scotia and Ontario, Canada.
Founder Col. Earl D. Irons composed and dedicated Hail to the Fraternity to Phi Beta Mu. Brothers Harold L. Walters and Karl L. King collaborated in writing Men of Music March and dedicated it to the Fraternity. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Phi Beta Mu, the Lake Highlands High School Band of Richardson, Texas, performed A Celebration Fanfare by Dr. Alfred Reed and the Breckenridge Overture by James Barnes at the 1988 Mid-West International Band Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. Both works were composed for and dedicated to Phi Beta Mu. Brother Malcolm Helm was the director of this outstanding high school band.
There are presently 30 active chapters of Phi Beta Mu in North America with interest in new chapters being shown.