2016: Edward Trongone
1919 – 1987
Founding Director of HSPVA Jazz Program, 1971 – 1976
Ed Trongone (“Mr. T”), a native of Boston, came to Houston in the late 1940s to join the Houston Symphony as oboist. Symphony membership was not a full-time activity at that time, so he supplemented his income with freelance sax/woodwind work, plus teaching. He became more-and-more attracted to the latter as a profession, acquiring Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Houston.
In 1950, Trongone became Director of Instrumental Music at Houston’s Lamar High School, where he developed a program to become renowned in all areas of Symphony, Concert/Marching Band and Jazz Ensemble (“Stage Band,” in those days). Among his notable Lamar alumni: Ned Battista, well-known conductor and former long-time member of the Houston Symphony trumpet section.
In 1962, Trongone left Lamar for the newly-opened Lee High School, where his success continued unabated. Among his Lee alumni:
Ronnie Laws, internationally-renowned saxophonist/recording artist
Hal Robinson, principal bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra (for whom Doc Morgan wrote a piece for solo bass and stage band, commissioned by Trongone, while Robinson was still in high school [late ‘60s])
The late Bill Tillman, saxophonist with Blood, Sweat, and Tears and others
HSPVA founding Principal Ruth Denney had been a close colleague of “T’s” at Lamar, so it was a natural fit when she invited him to be the new high school’s first Director of Instrumental Music. Trongone readily accepted, and, once again, his success continued unabated for the first seven years of HSPVA’s existence. He retired in 1978, later returning to his native Boston where he died in 1987.
The high levels of achievement widely recognized, not only in jazz, but for the entire HSPVA Music Department, would not be possible without the bedrock foundation provided by Edward Trongone.
Doc Morgan inaugurated the tradition, continued by Warren Sneed, of designating each end-of-year senior award for “Most Outstanding Jazz Musician” as The Edward Trongone Award.