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Former UN ambassador, Denton student shares experiences with current students

Former U.N. Ambassador Warren Tichenor visits with a Denton High School jazz student
Denton High School jazz students recently received a new drum set, but perhaps the more significant aspect of the gift was talking to who it came from – Warren Tichenor, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations who is also a former Denton student.

Tichenor attended Denton ISD schools from 1970 to 1977, including Denton High until the end of his junior year before moving. For that entire period, he was a drum fanatic, playing from a young age until he was old enough to join the Denton High stage band. There, he played a set of white Pearl drums and received acclaim for his musical acumen.

When Tichenor connected with Jesse Woolery, director of jazz bands at Denton High, he had a very specific idea of how he wanted to provide support for the school’s musical programs.

“About a year or two ago, I called Jesse and said, ‘Look, I’d like to do something nice for my former school,’ and I immediately knew I wanted to provide a drum kit identical to what I had,” Tichenor said. “When I say identical, I mean it’s literally almost the exact same. We had this custom made by a shop in Hollywood, and it took about six months for them to make this 2015 model look like my old set in 1976 with the same finish.”

After watching jazz students perform, including two on the program’s new drum kit, Tichenor discussed his time at Denton High as well as his political experiences. Tichenor was appointed by President George W. Bush as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva in 2006, a position he held until 2009.

Denton jazz students now have a one-of-a-kind custom Pearl drum kit thanks to Tichenor's donation

One important lesson Tichenor learned from both his educational and political careers is that fine arts can transcend barriers and serve as a common interest, he said.

“When I was an ambassador, we’d do these kinds of [culture exchange] things with painters, musicians and other artists,” Tichenor explained. “We often take our culture for granted. But, if you go around the world, you can see how ubiquitous American culture is. It’s a way to kind of break the ice and find common grounds. There may be a language barrier, cultural differences and all that, but everyone can see something in a painting, admire a work of art or appreciate music.”

Citing the Russian ballet as an example, Tichenor added that other countries often provide different vantage points of their own environments through fine arts.

When asked about Tichenor’s contribution to his program, Woolery said both the physical gift of the drum set and the former ambassador’s time were priceless.

“Any donation helps our program out, and one as valuable as this drum set is incredibly noteworthy, especially since it’s been made with such care and craftsmanship,” he said. “On top of that, having a former Denton High student who went on to become a U.N. ambassador visit with these kids is amazing, because it shows them someone from their city can go on to have a major role in the world.”

Tichenor, who still regularly plays the drums in his free time, told the Denton jazz students to “always keep moving toward your goals” and to never stray from long-term dreams. He also left with one parting piece of advice: never be late.

“An important thing to know about Air Force One is that as soon as the president’s on, you’re leaving – they aren’t going to wait for you,” Tichenor said. “Somebody did get left once when I was on it, so during the campaign the whole email [chain] was, ‘Where is so-and-so?’ So everybody started kidding him – that’s just the way it rolls in life. Always be on time in life, because people aren’t going to wait for you.”
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