Return to Headlines

Curtiss Allen Jr. continues tradition of music for family and festival

Curtiss Allen Jr. continues tradition of music for family and festival

By Hector Hernandez Jr.

Highland Community News

January 10, 2019

 

Curtiss Allen Jr., Beattie Middle School music teacher and the 2019 Citrus Harvest Festival honoree, says he’s about as local and native as it gets.

As a resident living and teaching in Highland, Allen is deeply involved within the music communities of Highland, Redlands and San Bernardino, and it is his dedicated leadership of the Beattie Middle School Jazz Catz, a perennial feature of Highland’s annual Citrus Harvest Festival, what moved the city’s Historic and Cultural Preservation Board to name him this year’s festival honoree.

“He’s been so true to us by coming every year, and to have those kids performing at that level is commendable,” board member Patrick Stanford said prior to the Dec. 6 decision.

Allen has been teaching music at Beattie since it opened in 2002 and leads the school’s music program, which includes the jazz band, a concert band, a symphonic band and the orchestra.

“I consider myself to have dual citizenship between Redlands and Highland. I am very fond of Highland, as I am of Redlands,” Allen said. “My home and my school are in Highland, and having started at this school from scratch I feel a strong connection to this city.”

He also directs the Redlands Fourth of July Band, the University of Redlands Pep Band and serves as director of music for the First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino. He inherited directorship of the Redlands bands from his father, a well-known figure in local music circles.

His family roots in San Bernardino Valley date back to 1885 when his great-great-grandfather O.A. Allen moved to San Bernardino from Homer, Mich. For decades the family ran a blacksmith shop until it was sold in 1968. Music is now the Allen family legacy.

His parents met in college through their music, his mom a singer and his father a French horn player. Curtiss, his brother and sisters each play an instrument and sing. Contributing to their church’s music program is a family tradition. His sister Amy Gano, who works in the Beattie administration office, is director of the church’s bell choir.

Curtiss’ sons continue the tradition with one playing in the Citrus Valley High School band and another in the U.S. Marine Band.

“We didn’t really have a choice,” Curtiss said.

While Curtiss describes music as something he couldn’t escape he has made teaching the main focus of his passion.

After graduating high school Curtiss joined the U.S. Army Band and played overseas in Germany. He then earned a bachelor’s in tuba performance and music education.

 

“No matter what I did as a young man I kept getting booted and nudged into music,” Allen said. “After trying many other things I found I need to be teaching kids. The others (music programs) are sidelines. The kids are the main focus, making sure they get a good grounding and stay involved, getting them to the next level so they can be successful when they get to high school and continue to enjoy the wonderful thing that is playing an instrument.”

He began teaching in 1996 and has taught at Redlands High School and Cope Middle School.

“I found out I really like middle school. I was always afraid of it, when I was teaching high school,” he said. “I remember when I was a middle school. I as a so-and-so. We all were. It’s intense. Everyone remembers the junior high school years when everything is changing. We were all experimenting with how far we could push boundaries in middle school.”

He loves supporting the students’ involvement in the harvest festival because it brings the families of his students into the community.

“Anytime you get school-age kids involved in a community event it primes the pump for future community service,” Allen said. “It’s so easy for us to get into our adult lives and just shrink into the background. Anytime we’re able to get the kids out and about in the community it’s excellent for the healthy future of our community.”

The Beattie Middle School Jazz Catz, which serves as an honor band, will perform at the festival on Saturday, March 30, at the stage at Palm Avenue and Pacific Street. The Citrus Valley High School band and Highland Music Co. also will perform.