Milan Svambera

TODA Orchestra Director of the Year - 2003


Milan Svambera was a conductor, a teacher, a clinician, and an adjudicator. He taught orchestra for both the El Paso and the La Porte School Districts a total of 38 years.

Mr Svambera has taught orchestra at all levels, from elementary school through college. He began his music education on the violin in Chicago Public Schools as a sixth grader. He continued his study on the violin privately with Mr Samuel Arron in Chicago, and later studied viola with Mr Abraham Chavez, Jr in El Paso. He received his bachelors degree from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and his masters degree from Northwestern University in Evanston while teaching at Gads Hill Settlement House in Chicago.

In 1952, after completing his formal education, Mr Svambera moved to El Paso to accept the position of string teacher for the El the grade schools program, he was moved to Henderson JH and Jefferson HS. In 1955, under his guidance, the Jefferson HS Orchestra received many honors. In 1965, under the sponsorship of the Crossroads of the Americas, the group made a Goodwill Tour to Mexico. Concerts were given in Chihauhua City, Parral, and Santa Barbara. Then in 1966, the orchestra was invited to perform in Chicago at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic- Convention under the auspices of NSOA. In 1968 the group was selected as the Honor Orchestra for TMEA, and appeared in concert at the State Convention in Austin. Then in 1978 the group was selected as the Honor Stage Orchestra for the National Association of Jazz Educators (NAJE) and appeared in concert at the State Convention in Dallas. In the next few years, the orchestra won the Outstanding Orchestra Award in Amarillo, and in Durango, Colorado.

Mr Svambera taught music full time at the El Paso Community College for three years. He played principal viola in the Symphony and served as guest conductor and/or clinician for many orchestras throughout the Southwest. He has written the orchestra arrangements of the songs the students sang at the Young Peoples Symphony Concert. In 1978 Mr Svambera was invited to conduct the New Mexico All-State Orchestra, and again in 1982 and 1986.

In 1981, Milan Svambera joined Charles Jones to teach orchestra in La Porte. Mr Jones, with a few years of experience, was teaching at Baker JH while Mr Svambera taught at La Porte HS and La Porte JH. Only one student made All State Orchestra in the first year. The student, Karen Culpepper, a viola player, is now a music teacher at a college in Colorado. A few years down the road, two boys performed all four years with the All State Orchestra, and they both received recognition from TMEA. The boys were Andy Thysen on string bass and Kirk Jones on cello.

Milan Svambera died Wednesday, August 6, 2003 from the effects of a stroke. He was 77 years old. His death came just eight days after he was honored as the TODA 2003 Orchestra Director of the Year. Though unable to attend the award ceremonies, he was able to see the award and acknowledge it before his death.