Gary Phillips
Founder, Executive Director

Gary Phillips was in the Keller High School Indian Band in 9th and 10th grade, but spent most of his childhood in Birdville ISD, graduating from Richland in 1976.

After high school he spent four years in US Army Public Affairs, then went back to Tarrant County College (then known as Tarrant County Junior College) in 1982. Gary had not picked up a trombone for several years, but music professor Jack Cobb invited him to play in the band at TCC.

Little did Gary know how that single invitation would affect the rest of his life.

It was at TCC that Gary remembered how much fun it was to play the trombone. By the end of the semester he had joined another rehearsal band and the orchestra at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. Jack introduced Gary to TCU jazz director Curt Wilson, paving the way for Gary to become a Horned Frog. Between financial aid from TCU Jazz and the GI Bill — plus part-time income from playing in the National Guard band — Gary moved to TCU in 1984 and received a B.A. in 1986.

Gary would spend two decades with 3M, but would freelance as a part-time trombonist and play in his church orchestra throughout his corporate career. In 1999, Gary founded the Metro Praise Orchestra as a recreational outlet where he and other church musicians could play jazz a couple times a month.

Gary didn’t work around teenage musicians until 2010 when he produced a fundraiser for the Richland High School Jazz Ensemble. During that project he met high school students who wanted to join the MPO. In response Gary piloted the Metro Praise Youth Orchestra, a project that would officially launch in 2011. In 2015 he founded the organization’s second band – the Keller Area Youth Jazz Orchestra.

By day, Gary is a Financial Advisor. He and his wife Rene live in Keller. They have four grown children and four grandchildren.

Justin Pierce
resident conductor

Justin Pierce is a native of Vidor, Texas. He earned his undergraduate degree from McNeese State University, and began graduate studies at the University of North Texas in 2010. He played lead alto sax in UNT’s renowned One O’Clock Lab Band on “Lab 2012.”

During his masters’ degree studies, Justin taught private lessons in Keller ISD and directed the Seven O’Clock Lab Band. Justin took the front of MPR youth ensembles in 2013. After a year of doctoral studies, he took a one-year contract on the music faculty at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma — close enough that he could remain at the helm of our youth ensembles on weekends and during school breaks.

In 2014, Justin moved to Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, still a reasonable commute to Keller. Justin is a Vandoren Regional Artist and a Conn-Selmer performing artist. He has played with Wayne Newton, The Temptations, Doc Severinsen and many more. Justin, his wife Ashley, and their two sons, live in Shawnee, OK. Justin is in line to receive his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from UNT later this year.

Miles Belvin
college intern

Miles is a freelance musician, educator, arranger, and composer. He first joined our youth organization as a student, but his leadership in the trumpet section was quickly recognized, and we were fortunate to keep him for subsequent sessions as an intern. In that role he mentors younger players on style and articulation, runs sectionals, and plays as needed. Miles also performs with our adult bands, and with his own groups: Ultrahang and The Miles Belvin Quartet.

Miles’ courtship with the trumpet began at age 5. His dad played trumpet in Top 40s cover bands, and Miles often accompanied him to those gigs. From backstage Miles took in the brass-rich sounds of Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, Cool & the Gang, and Sly & the Family Stone. With that his passion for the art was ignited.

When he entered Hurst Junior High it was a no-brainer that Miles would join the band. He went on to play in the L.D. Bell Blue Raider Band, and after high school he toured as a soloist with The Crossmen Drum & Bugle Corps.

In 2013 he enrolled at Tarrant County College. NE Campus Jazz Studies professor Philippe Baugh took note of Miles’ passion and enlisted him as a supplemental instructor. Under Baugh’s tutelage, Miles took on additional responsibilities, and even assisted Baugh in writing two books to be used in TCC improvisation classes.

In 2015 Miles transferred to the UT Arlington, where he holds the solo chair in the UTA Jazz Orchestra. Miles’ talent as a soloist has been rewarded with the Daniel Burkholder, Adonis Rose, and Bill Snodgrass Scholarship Awards.

Miles leadership ability is not confined to music. He grew up in the scouting program and has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.