Aubrey Penman

Recipient of the First Annual Sacramento Area Music Educators Lifetime Achievement Award

Aubrey Penman

Aubrey Penman

“It doesn’t matter how small the town is where you were raised. Success is up to the individual and how determined he or she is to work toward their goals. I had a goal when I was a sophomore in high school and I could never have dreamed where those dreams would have taken me.”

- Aubrey Penman

Born on Mozart Street in 1923, Aubrey Penman was destined for a career in music. He took up the trombone while attending Lincoln High School; it was there that he met Monty Lane, the band director who would lead Aubrey to his calling. “I knew from my sophomore year that I wanted to be a music teacher because Monty was such an inspiration to me,” said Aubrey.

This would prove a fortuitous choice. Because of a heart condition, Aubrey was ineligible for service in World War II. Instead, while attending junior college, Aubrey joined Sacramento Post #61 of the American Legion Band, performing stage shows at military hospitals. In December of 1942, the principal of Rio Linda Elementary School offered Aubrey a part-time position teaching music after the band teacher quit. Aubrey was granted an emergency teaching credential and began teaching for seventy-five dollars a month. He was just 19 years old.

From such modest beginnings evolved a 50 year career teaching and sharing the gift of music. While completing his full credential, Aubrey taught part-time at Grant Union High, Rio Linda Elementary and Arcade Elementary. His career at Sacramento City Unified School District began in 1948 and, by his retirement in 1983, encompassed many roles - Teacher, Band Leader, Music Department Chair, District Head Teacher, and District Music Specialist. At Sacramento High School, Aubrey earned his reputation as an inspiring and devoted teacher, introducing the first jazz curriculum in California, writing several music books, and spending his summers conducting summer music programs and band camps. Renowned jazz saxophonist Mel Martin, one of Aubrey’s former students, describes the honor of studying under Aubrey’s tutelage:

“Aubrey Penman helped me and countless others to become fully aware of the responsibilities, as well as the numerous joys, involved in becoming total musicians. He personally saw to it that we obtained all the tools to become serious musicians through the study of ear training, harmony, composition, and orchestration, and he gave us all many opportunities to use our learning and our individual gifts. If we took that training for granted at the time, we cherish it now more than I can possibly communicate in words. He did it with loving encouragement and an immense amount of patience. He is the model of a true teacher. God bless Aubrey Penman for all he has done and continues to do for his students. I am proud to be one of ‘Aubrey’s kids.'”

In retirement, Aubrey took charge of the Golden Empire Music Festivals for the California Music Educators Association, Capitol Section, where he is also a past President. Aubrey expanded the Festival Program vastly, increasing participation from 2,000 to 20,000 students during his tenure. He has remained actively involved in managing and directing community youth bands and orchestras.

Throughout his career, Aubrey has been honored by his peers, receiving numerous awards—from the California Teacher of the Year Award (1962) to the California Music Educators Association’s highest honor, the President’s Award (2002). In that same year, the CMEA also created the Aubrey Penman Retired Music Educator Award. Photographer, friend, and fellow music teacher John Hansen, capturing the sentiment of Aubrey’s peers, observes, “The definition of music is love in search of a better world. Aubrey exemplifies the love of music more than any person I have ever known.”

Please join us in honoring this extraordinary teacher for his vision, his commitment, and for sharing, in search of a better world, the gift of music.