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Weatherford man living his musical dream in mid-80s


Charles Roberson's passion for German music began as a high school student in the 1950s.

His great, great, great grandfather served in the American Revolution, and his older brother served in World War II. While Roberson also served in both the Army National Guard and then the Air Force during the Vietnam War, it was music that paid for college.

Roberson, 85, attended Weatherford College for a year and then accepted a music scholarship from Hardin-Simmons University, because the HSU Band completed a European tour the previous year, and Roberson was informed by the director that they were going to do it again.

"I didn't care about going to Hardin-Simmons,” Roberson said. “I wanted that free trip to Europe. So I go over there and sign up. I'm all ready to go, and all of a sudden the trip got canceled. So there I am stuck."

But a passion for German music also stuck, and after his stint in the military and a career at General Dynamics, now Lockheed Martin, Roberson picked it up again.

Getting started

Born in 1938 in Pampa in the Panhandle, Roberson's family moved to the Breckenridge area when he was a young boy. His father had made some money during the depression working in the oil industry and bought 150 acres just North of Weatherford.

Roberson went to Weatherford schools and participated in several band clinics at Tarleton State University in Stephenville when he was a teen.

The Parker County man started out as a trombone player and eventually switched to euphonium. As an adult, he played with the Fort Worth City Band in the mid-90s and later branched out and played with the Dallas Czech Concert Orchestra.

Finding his true music love

In the early to mid-oughts, the German Band of North Texas came and asked him to play with them. For Roberson, it was a no brainer.

"I just love it," Roberson said. "It's creative. With German music, you play it pretty much the way you feel it. It's just fun music. The funny thing about it is that we don't have that many Germans in the band. I'm 80 percent Gaelic, Celtic and Scottish. We do have a few Germans, but right now, the conductor is African-American. He was career Air Force and played in bands all over Europe, and he became quite an expert in German music. So it's a diverse group."

Switching instruments

After playing euphonium for years, along with the trombone and trumpet, Roberson switched to the tenor horn for the German band.

"It's an Eastern European instrument that you don't really see around here very often," Roberson said. "I was a euphonium player before that. I actually didn't have a tenor horn when I played with the Dallas Czech Concert Orchestra. I played the first tenor horn part on the euphonium. The tenor horns are hard to get, and they are expensive if you order them from the Czech Republic or Germany."

Fortunately, for Roberson, his son-in-law found a tenor horn through a company out of California that had just received a shipment of 29 of the instruments from China.

Roberson was able to buy one, case and all, for $360.

"I told him 'Put it on your credit card right now, and I will pay you back,'" Roberson said. "It is the exact copy of the German version, and it plays beautifully."

Straying from convention

Roberson, who also occasionally performs with the Cross Timbers Lower Brass Ensemble, made it clear that the German Band of North Texas does not follow all of the conventions of a traditional German band.

"We don't wear the silly outfits and the Lederhosen and stuff like that," Roberson said. "We don't have accordions or banjos or anything like that. If there is anything that will make me look for my gun, it would be to play an accordion or banjo too long."

There are about 25 members of the German Band of North Texas and they are all volunteers.

Roberson said the ensemble's former conductor would often go to Oslo, Norway to get the band authentic German music.

"When the Nazis pulled out of Germany, they left their horns and their music and everything," Roberson said. "The Norwegians archived it all. 

"Our director would get us some really authentic music, some of it well over 100 years old. We have a few pieces that were manuscripts that were never published, that we can play at a concert today."

Bucket list item

Roberson crossed off a bucket list item a few years back when he was chosen for the all-state German band the year before the COVID 19 pandemic hit.

"I had always wanted to play with them,” Roberson said. “It is by invitation only and they pick the best German musicians in Texas. I got an invitation to go and play with them and it was wonderful. 

"We played at the Beethoven Mansion in San Antonio. It has a large courtyard and a big pavilion. There were more than a thousand people in the audience."

The German Band of North Texas also have a Schellenbaum, a rare percussion instrument of which only one other band in Honolulu and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are in possession.

The Group performs at Muenster twice a year for Oktoberfest, and then plays the German Festival in April.

They have also played in Southlake and Plano German Festivals, along with Texas Live! in Arlington. The ensemble also performs Christmas shows.

Military background

Although music occupies much of his time, Roberson's military background still figures prominently in his life, as he serves as First Vice Commander of Post 163 of the American Legion in Weatherford.

“We have one of the nicest Legion halls in the state," Roberson said. “The American Legion at the state convention has competitions for the historians, judging how well they have kept up with everything. We have won it several times. Then for 2023, the state commander was from our post."

Roberson also served as the Grand Marshall of the Veteran's Day Parade in Weatherford this past year.

Looking ahead

The German Band of North Texas will be playing in Downtown Granbury in April, and Roberson said the most important thing for him is that people enjoy themselves at the group's performances.

“I hope people leave with a feeling of happiness,” Roberson said. “We just want to bring a good feeling to the people. It's hard to explain, German music, but you kind of get hooked on it. We want them to leave with smiles on their faces.”


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