UNT has always been a part of Liz Millender Grant's ('78, '81 M.M.) life, ever since her father, Charles Millender ('57, '75 M.M.), a public school band director, would take her to the Music Building for concerts and private clarinet lessons as a child.
"All those years of lessons, of walking down the halls, of hearing beautiful singing and amazing pianists practicing ... it really inspired me. Early on, the seeds were planted making me want to attend UNT, too," she says.
UNT has been a tradition for three generations of her family. Liz earned her music degree that led to her career as a band director -- and she met her husband, Ross Grant ('78, '78 M.M.Ed., '89 Ph.D.), who also is a band director. One of their two children, Gina Grant Scheer ('10), also graduated from UNT, married a fellow classmate, Zach Scheer ('10), and worked as a band director.
UNT means so much to the family.
"Our lives were set on new courses from superb training, experiences and people there," Liz says. "We all have a very soft spot for UNT as graduates."
Millender, who passed away in 2005, came to UNT in 1955, training with legendary professors John Haynie (trumpet) and Maurice McAdow (band director). Millender then went on to work as a band director in high schools in Texas and Oklahoma. In 1988, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Bandmaster Hall of Fame. He created the Lawton Superior Marching Contest in 1970, an annual event for high school bands that hosted its 47th contest this fall.
His three daughters all played in his school band. As early as the eighth grade, Liz knew she wanted to follow in her dad's footsteps and teach band. While she was in high school, he drove her three hours each way from their home in Lawton, Okla., to UNT for her weekly clarinet lesson with professor Lee Gibson.
Then as a UNT student, Liz played in the University Wind Ensemble, where she met Ross, a graduate student and trumpeter.
They married one week after her graduation in December 1978. Their son, Gary, works in marketing, and daughter Gina became a clarinetist like her mother. Gina's husband, Zach, is percussion director at Coppell ISD. Together as UNT students, they performed in the Symphonic Band and worked with conducting professor Dennis Fisher.
"It was Mr. Fisher who prepared us most for the real world," Gina says. "He taught us how to program a well-balanced concert that will connect with the audience, how to understand a score, why you should know it inside and out before ever teaching a single note of music, and how to be a professional."
Gina taught band at Killian Middle School in Lewisville before becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2014. She and Zach are the parents of 2-year-old Jordan and 2-month-old Adam. And Jordan is already a student at UNT -- taking early childhood music classes offered by the College of Music.
"UNT is like a second home for us," Gina says. "My grandfather had the same experience I did, but with different teachers who were equally outstanding. UNT will always be a great place to learn and grow."