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Princeton ISD dedicates third middle school

Mattei ortrait unveiling

It probably comes as no surprise that the recent dedication for Mattei Middle School had an unusually musical flair, complete with an original piece composed by half the school’s namesake, Buddy Mattei, and performed by the Princeton High School band, which he helped lead with his wife, Marilyn, for more than two decades.


Princeton ISD opened its third middle school in August to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders at 9055 County Road 728 in the southern portion of the school district.

PHS band

Mattei Principal Jerry Quinton welcomed the crowd to the ceremony.


“This is an amazing building named for amazing educators,” he said. What sticks out to me about the Matteis, is that when Marilyn Mattei became the band director, there were only 13 kids in band. I’d say it’s grown just a little since then, and I believe it’s the best band anywhere.”


Former PISD superintendent Frank Garner was the first to speak on their behalf.


“This is a lovely facility,” Mr. Garner said. “Marilyn’s first band hall was at the Lacy campus, and it was an old ag shop that had been vacated for several years. No A/C. Sticky windows, because some of them were stuck open and wouldn’t close and some of them were stuck closed and couldn’t open. But it didn’t matter, she was going to do it right. They musically held their own, and we started hearing about ‘that little band.’ She literally built this program.”

Frank Garner

After sending out 17 resumes and interviewing at seven school districts with no job offers, Marilyn Mattei arrived in Princeton in 1972 as one of the only female band directors in the state.


But she wasn’t alone. Despite him not being on the payroll yet, Marilyn brought along the talents of her husband, Buddy, who was focused on his career as a musician at the time. But he always offered his assistance over the next 11 years until he officially joined the PISD staff as a band director in 1983.


“When George Clark hired me, he didn’t know he was getting a buy one, get one free,” Marilyn said of Buddy’s contribution to PISD. “For 11 years, he was there when he didn’t have to be. His resume says 16 years, but it was really 27 years of dedication and commitment to the Princeton band and students.”

Marilyn Mattei

Buddy had equally complimentary things to say about his wife.


“The primary reason this school is named Buddy and Marilyn is because I married so well,” he said. “She did all of the heavy lifting. She put Princeton in the top tier and created Panther Pride.”

The flag presentation

Buddy also thanked the PISD school board.


“Since I’m old, I have a historical perspective to view the growth going on in this area,” he said. “I want to thank the trustees. They didn’t have a choice on building, because you had to put these kids somewhere, but you did have a choice on the quality of facilities and personnel to put in those facilities. It’s because of this reputation that Princeton continues to attract top-notch personnel. It makes a statement to the voters of the district that kids are worth it.”


All the guest speakers reflected on the legacy the Matteis established during their careers in Princeton.

Robert Burgess

“They taught us more than music,” said former student Robert Burgess, who admittedly never received a band credit on his transcript, but was more of a defacto member who was gifted with a shirt calling him the “Band-Aid.” “They taught us ethics, dedication, teamwork, inclusion, equality, respect, pride. They taught love, and it was unconditional. They found people to believe in.”


Including one particularly special former student, Evan Mattei, who was also the couple’s son.


By the time Evan was part of the band program, Buddy was the band director.

Jaguar reception table

“Growing up around the band, I wish I could remember my mom, but in my mind, the Panther band belonged to dad,” he said. “My dad was the consummate do-it-yourselfer. So when the band needed a show, he designed it himself. When his son and fellow drum majors insisted on wearing Superman capes and needed music to go with it, he wrote the piece himself.”


Evan said he felt qualified to speak for a collective 50 years of students.


“They blessed us with the experiences of the Princeton Panther marching band,” he said. “And they were the best teachers we ever had.”

The portrait

At the close of the dedication ceremony, Mr. Quinton presented the guests of honor with a token of appreciation - an all-access pass to any Mattei event. In a matter of days, the Matteis were already attending a volleyball game at the school vs. Southard, whose namesake, Deborah Southard, was also in attendance.


Buddy reminded everyone at the dedication of another contribution they made that will remain at Mattei.


“As you can always say, ‘it’s I before E, except after C, and when sounded as A, as in neighbor’ and Mattei,” he said. “They didn’t know we would make it a middle school with built-in educational value.”

Mattei family