Country songwriter named VISD director of fine arts
Don Rollins has been named director of fine arts for Vidor Independent School District to succeed longtime music director Ronnie Touchstone, whose last official day is Aug. 31. Rollins graduated from Lamar University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Music and is a former saxophone student of Lamar University President Emeritus Dr. Jimmy Simmons.
“It’s really nice,” said Rollins of his return to Vidor High School, where he graduated in 1979. “It’s the only public school job in the state that I would have actually pursued. The program is really good. I know the community and what they expect from the band program. I’m from here and know so many people here. It’s still home. I am seeing a lot of students whose parents I went to school with. I feel like I can just step in without making a lot of adjustments.”
Rollins said he not only brings a new face to the Mighty Pirate Marching Band, which he will also be directing, but also brings plenty of musical experience.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the music business as a saxophone player and songwriter,” he said. “There are a lot of things that I can do that the average band director probably cannot do because he hasn’t been in that part of the business.”
Rollins had an extensive career as a singer/songwriter and is best known for co-writing “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” recorded in 2003 by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett. The song spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard and Radio & Records charts, and won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song of 2003.
In 2007, Rollins placed two songs on the platinum “Duets” album by Reba McEntire, including duets with McEntire and Faith Hill, as well as a duet with Reba and songwriting legend Carole King. Other cuts include songs recorded by Randy Travis, Keith Harling, Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs, Neal McCoy, Eden’s Edge and Due West.
In 2013, after spending many years in Nashville, Rollins returned to Southeast Texas to become director of Lamar University’s Jazz Band following the death of then-director Wayne Dyess.
Rollins said he hopes his experience in the music industry will excite teens who have an interest in popular music but might not necessarily think band is for them.
“There are some kids who would really like to play in a rock band or something like that,” he said. “They may play in the band, but that’s not really their interest. But they may be into music, and I can help those kids in ways that most band directors can’t just because they aren’t exposed to it.”
Although Rollins said he is currently selecting music he believes best suits the band and might be used in UIL competition, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” wasn’t necessarily in the mix.
“Vidor is a military style band, so a vast majority of what we are going to play is marches. We don’t play pop tunes for competition. As far as I know no one’s ever done a marching band version of that song,” Rollins said. “I’m not sure how small town Texas would react to it. I might get away with it because I am from here and wrote the song.”