Music pioneer reflects on his time as a Highlander
August 30, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
When Harley Brumbaugh snaps his fingers to the beat of a song, it has the authoritative click of a seasoned music instructor leading his students to success.
It’s the exact same snap countless Renton School District students heard as Brumbaugh led music programs at McKnight Middle School, and established one at Hazen High School in the 1960s.
Today, Hazen High School is home to one of the best vocal music programs in the state, but none of it would have happened if it weren’t for Brumbaugh, the man tasked with creating a music department at what was a brand new school in 1968.
“I had to order all of the new things, manage the budget and set up schedules, but we possessed this sort of pioneer spirit through it all,” he said of his first year at Hazen.
Sitting in the North Bend home he shares with his wife Cathy, Brumbaugh reflected on his time as a Highlander.
It wasn’t difficult to get the Hazen music program started, Brumbaugh said, since many of his pupils from McKnight continued to participate as they entered high school.
Right away, Hazen had a large pool of students interested in joining the vocal groups. Some football players even dropped the sport to be in the choir, with a little coaxing from Brumbaugh, of course.
“I’d say to them, ‘You’re too chicken. It takes a man to stand up and sing. Anybody can take a ball and run down the field with the thing,’” he said, though he was an athlete himself when he was a student at Mount Si High School.
The school’s vocal groups found success quite early, when the Hazen Studio Singers were rated No. 1 in the state just a year after the school opened. The recognition earned them the opportunity to exclusively perform at the Washington Music Educators Convention in Yakima.
“We had only been together for maybe three months because there was hardly any place for them to practice,” Brumbaugh said.
Despite the rising music programs, Brumbaugh remembered having to play second fiddle to Renton High School in the community and the press.
“You know the saying, ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus?’ As a spinoff, I would say, ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Hazen high School,’” he said.
To unite the Highlander community as the school opened, Brumbaugh decided to take the initiative to pen the school’s alma mater, “Green, Gold and Blue.” It is now an important part of the Hazen culture, sung at the end of every graduation.
Brumbaugh said he wrote the alma mater ensuring that it had a timeless element, making it sound just as good today as it did 40 years ago.
“No one asked me to do it, but I was just sitting at the piano one day, and I thought, this might help bring the group together,” he said. “The kids really seem to enjoy it.”
Brumbaugh spent only two years at Hazen before he was recruited by Bellevue Community College to start its own music program, but the school still holds a special place in his heart. It’s where he conducted his final formal concert in 2008.
“The beauty of music is that everything else sort of teaches you how to think,” he said. “But in the arts, it teaches you how to feel and how to express that.”
Hazen alma mater
‘Green, Gold and Blue,’ by Harley Brumbaugh
The greenwoods scent the dewy air where golden treasures lie,
Beneath the bonnie, bonnie blue in the land of Hazen High.
Whene’re a’roving far from thee to seek our fortunes due,
These golden hours the dearer be with the touch of green and blue.
So let there be no last farewell among the Highland Clan,
For Highland hearts will always dwell in the brotherhood of man.
So on our lips we seal our vow to be true to green, gold and blue.