Our Philosophy of Education

The Seven Lakes Band’s educational approach is based on the theory that improvement and progress are in direct proportion to the effort expended by the band member, instructor, and family support system. We believe that maximum mental and moral growth is developed from persistent guidance and supervision in a proper environment. We recognize all members are not alike and they do not all have the same abilities. They are individuals with different pasts, experiences, and futures. The success of their training lies in the developing pride of accomplishment and a positive outlook. In the Seven Lakes Band Program, each member associates with other students in an atmosphere of courage, trust, and optimum achievement. Politeness and courtesy become habits; leading to an appreciation of community, respect, discipline, and the good in others. We live by our band motto of  “purpose, unity, training, focus.”

John Mays, Director of Bands

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Mr. Mays is in his twentieth year of teaching and is currently in his fifth year as the Director of Bands at Seven Lakes High School in Katy ISD.  Prior to coming to Katy ISD, he taught in the school districts of Spring, Richardson, Plano and Rockwall.

Mr. Mays grew up in Brady, Texas where he began playing the trumpet in 6th grade.  He attended Texas Tech University where he switched to the Horn and earned his Bachelors of Music Education degree.  While in college, Mr. Mays was a member of the Texas Tech University performing wind bands, as well as a member of the Goin’ Band from Raiderland and Court Jesters.

Bands under the direction of Mr. Mays have received consistent Sweepstakes Awards in University Interscholastic League competitions for Marching, Concert Performance, and Sight Reading.  In 2013, his Clark High School Wind Ensemble was named National Winner in the National Wind Band Competition in both the Classification and New Music Division. In 2018 the Seven Lakes Wind Symphony was selected to perform at the Music for All National Concert Band Festival in Indianapolis. Mr. Mays also co-conducts the Seven Lakes High School Symphony Orchestra, which was just recently named as the 2020 TMEA Honor Orchestra.

Mr. Mays has been recognized as an Honorary Member for the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, as well as, being honored in Plano with the Life PTA Membership Award.  In 2013, Mr. Mays was nominated for Teacher of the Year at Clark High School in Plano ISD.

His professional affiliations include the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmaster Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Beta Mu International Band Fraternity.  Mr. Mays maintains an active schedule as a clinician and adjudicator.

Jamie McDonald, Associate Director of Bands

Born in mission Viejo, California, Mr. McDonald moved to Hickory, North Carolina at a young age. In North Carolina, Mr. McDonald became interested in songwriting, music production, and music education. He currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education with a concentration in Commercial & Electronic Music from Western Carolina University (2016).


Mr. McDonald is an active member of the Drum Corps International performance activity. Performing for a total of four summers, he toured the country and competed with two world-class organizations: Spirit of Atlanta (12’-13’) and the Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps (14’-15’) - winning the coveted Jim Ott Memorial Award for excellence in brass in 2015. 


Additionally, Mr. McDonald spent four years as an educator in Georgia with the Ola High School band program. Under his direction the bands received consistent superior ratings at Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE) and reclaimed their name as a super regional finalist in the Bands of America circuit in 2018. 


Currently, Mr. McDonald is serving his fourth summer on brass staff with the Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps and is an active member in NAFME, and is a proud alumnus of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.

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Allen Vinson, Associate Director of Bands

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J. Allen Vinson is in his 4th year as Associate Director of Bands and the coordinator for the Seven Lakes High School percussion program out of Katy ISD. Mr. Vinson’s current responsibilities include conducting the Concert Band, teaching and organizing the Marching Percussion program, the 4 Percussion Ensembles, the Percussion Class at Beckendorff Junior High School, team-teaching the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Bands, and rehearsing/organizing the percussion section for the Seven Lakes High School Full Orchestra; the 2016 and 2020 TMEA Full Honor Orchestra.


While at Seven Lakes High School, Mr. Vinson has founded and oversees the marching percussion competition and clinic, Battle at the Lakes, that will be entering into its 2nd year of operation.

Mr. Vinson has previously served as the primary battery technician for the Clear Brook High School drumline out of Friendswood, Texas. While there, he assisted with three TCGC Championships, two WGI Regional Championships, and a Second Place ranking in the WGI World Championships.

James Gabonay, Color Guard Director

As both an outdoor and winter color guard director, Mr. Gabonay has led many programs including Spirit of Atlanta, Norwin High School (7 Time WGI Scholastic World Finalist), and Gateway High School (2014 Scholastic A WGI Finalist). He has also worked with the Cadets 2 Drum and Bugle Corps (DCA) as a designer, as well as the Troopers as a technician.

His marching and performing experience includes Norwin High School and the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps (2012-2014).

He holds a degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Secondary Education Social Studies and will also be teaching history at Seven Lakes Junior High.