Director of Bands
Ron Lewis is in his second year as Director of Bands at Fort Smith Southside High School. Ron is a retired teacher in Oklahoma, and was the director of the Wind Ensemble at the 9th Grade Academy in Van Buren. Ron has been teaching for 34 years and is a graduate from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He graduated high school from Checotah, Oklahoma. His bands have received many superior ratings and sweepstakes awards. Ron’s Collinsville High School Band won the Worlds of Fun “Festival of Music” contest in 2006, and his middle school band in 2011. The Academy Wind Ensemble won the same contest in 2018. His high school band in McAlester was selected as an OMEA State Honor Band in 1998 and his middle school band in Collinsville in 2011. Ron conducted the Van Buren 9th Academy Wind Ensemble in his first State Honor Band in Arkansas in 2018 at the Hot Springs Convention Center. While in Muldrow, he was voted Teacher of the Year for 1993.
Ron is an active adjudicator, honor band conductor and clinician in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. He has judged over 100 Marching and Concert band contests over the years. He is a member of ASBOA Region 8, OMEA, OMMAA, ABA, OBA, JEN, and Phi Beta Mu. Ron is a Past-President of OBA (2004-2005). Ron also served as the OMEA All-State Band Chair for 2009-2010. Ron’s hobbies include gigging on trumpet, playing golf, and playing with his granddaughter, Turner. Ron’s wife, Gina, is the colorguard instructor for Southside. She is also the former colorguard instructor/coordinator in Van Buren as well as previously in Oklahoma. She is currently the AP Computer Science teacher at Southside. His recently married son, Saxon, is the Music Director at the School of Rock in Frisco, Texas and is a grad student at Texas Women’s University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Music Education and is a freelance musician in the Dallas area. His daughter, Kelci, is a neuromuscular re-education therapist at Spero Clinic in Fayetteville.
Assistant Director of Bands
Michael Westbrook is currently in his fifth year as Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Director of Bands at Fort Smith Southside High School. His previous positions include Springdale Public Schools where he served as Assistant Director of Bands at Springdale High School, George Junior High School and Kelly Middle school. He was also Interim Director of Bands and Visiting Instructor of Music at Arkansas Tech during the 2014-15 school year. His duties at Arkansas Tech include conducting the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Concert Band, Arkansas’ Band of Distinction Marching Band, teaching Instrumental Methods classes and conducting. Prior to arriving at Arkansas Tech Mr. Westbrook was Director of Bands at Westmoore High School (2004-2014) and Director of Bands at Stillwater High School and Coordinator of Instrumental Music for the Stillwater Public System (1991-2004). His bands at Westmoore High School and Stillwater High School consistently received superior ratings in concert, sight-reading, marching as well as the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association Sweepstakes Award. Ensembles under the direction of Mr. Westbrook have appeared as Honor Ensembles at the Oklahoma Music Educators Association Conference on four separate occasions.
Mr. Westbrook holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education from Arkansas Tech University where he was a student of Mr. Gene Witherspoon and Richard Fletcher. He also holds the Master of Music Degree in Conducting Performance and Pedagogy from Oklahoma State University where he was a conducting student of Dr. Joseph Missal. Mr. Westbrook has also studied conducting with Frederick Fennell, H. Robert Reynolds and Thomas Dvorak.
In 1990 he was the recipient of the Stanbury Award for Outstanding Young Band Directors presented by the American School Band Directors Association for the state of Arkansas. Mr. Westbrook was awarded the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association. In 2000 Mr. Westbrook served as the Oklahoma Music Educators Association All-OMEA Honor Band Chair. In 2003 he was elected to the position of Band Vice President for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. Mr. Westbrook was chosen by School Band & Orchestra Magazine to be included in 50 Band Directors Who Make A Difference. In 2014 he was awarded the Exemplary Teacher award by the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. Mr. Westbrook was inducted into the Oklahoma Bandmasters Hall of Fame in 2015.
He has been active in the community band movement in Arkansas and Oklahoma having performed as featured soloist with the Community Band of Western Arkansas as well as the Stillwater Community Band and is a past president of the Stillwater Community Band Board of Directors. His teaching career began in the Conway, Fort Smith and Van Buren, Arkansas public school systems. As a professional saxophonist Mr. Westbrook has performed with such notable artists as Frank Gorshin, Patti Page, Franki Avalon, Byron Stripling, Steve Wilkerson, Pete Christlieb, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Rosemary Clooney, Lou Marini and Ella Fitzgerald. Mr. Westbrook has served as a clinician and adjudicator in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, Kansas and Nevada.
Freshman Band Director
Kristen Shepherd joined Ramsey Jr. High in Fort Smith as the Director of Bands in 2017. She is currently in her 10th year of teaching. Ramsey 9th grade Band had the honor of performing as the 9EEE Arkansas All-State Honor Band in 2020. In 2021, Kristen will be leading the Southside Freshman Band in addition to her role at Ramsey Middle School. Prior to her current position, she has also taught at DeWitt Junior High, Northside High School, Darby Junior High, and Melbourne High School. Mrs. Shepherd earned a Bachelors of Music Education at New Mexico State University, where she studied with Professor Nancy Joy. She also earned her Masters of Music in Horn Performance at the University of New Mexico, where she studied Horn with Professor JD Shaw. Mrs. Shepherd is an accomplished pianist of 30 years, having been awarded highest marks by the National Guild of Piano Teachers in competition. She has studied piano with Tanya Ellezian and Dr. JerriMae Astolfi. She also serves as a High Brass staff member with Battalion Drum and Bugle Corps in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kristen is a founding member and current conductor of the US Open NationalChampion “Arkansas Musicworks Brass Band.”
Kaitlyn Dover has been the Assistant Band Director at Ramsey Middle School since 2017. She earned her Bachelors in Music Education from the University of Memphis and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University. She directs the Ramsey 8th Grade Band, Jazz Band, and assists with the Beginning Band. In addition to her duties with the Ramsey Band, she also helps with the Southside Band program. Mrs. Dover and her husband, Jared, live in Van Buren with their cat and dog.
James Palmer, a Fort Smith native and Chaffin Junior High and Southside High School alum, is in his fifth year as Assistant Band Director at Chaffin Middle School. He earned his Bachelors in Music Education from Arkansas Tech University in 2007. Before teaching in Fort Smith, Mr. Palmer taught high school band, junior high band, and elementary music at Cotter Public Schools in Cotter, Arkansas for nine years. During this time, he founded the marching band program Cotter that earned straight superior ratings at the inaugural ASBOA State Marching Assessment. He is a member of the ASBOA, ABA, and Phi Beta Mu. In his free time, James plays trombone in the River Valley Community Band and with his church orchestra at Eastside Baptist Church. He spends his other time growing vegetables in his garden, playing video games, and cooking for his wife Jessica and son Sebastian.