Gary Phillips

Founder, Executive Director

KAYJO - Gary Phillips

By day, Gary is with Medicare Prepare, where he helps people 65 and over navigate the very complicated Medicare system.

After hours, he works with KAYJO.

Gary was never trained to be a music educator. He played in high school and college, but earned a liberal arts degree from TCU, then spent his career in sales and marketing. He spent most of his professional life with 3M. Throughout adult life Gary played trombone recreationally in community bands and at church.

In 1999, Gary formed a semi-professional group for church musicians.

Several members of Gary’s new Metro Praise Orchestra were band directors, and over the next few years they became his best friends. So when Gary left 3M in 2008, they invited him to become the trombone instructor at their schools, giving him a sort of backdoor entry to music education. He loved it.

Gary’s trombone students were exposed to the Metro Praise Orchestra, and wanted to join.

So in 2010, he piloted Metro Praise Youth Orchestra and hired one of the MPO members to direct it. The pilot revealed a need for the summer program, so Gary continued to develop the local project. 

Within three years, the word had spread and applications from all over DFW poured in. With the new applications there were more qualified musicians than Gary’s single band had room for, so he organized another band.

The new band would be named for its home town: The Keller Area Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Under Gary’s leadership, KAYJO has served Keller since 2015.

Personal life

Gary grew up in North Richland Hills, and was raised in the First Baptist Church of Keller, where his dad (the late Owen Phillips) was the music director. The elder Phillips became band director at Keller High School in 1972, so Gary spent two years in the Keller HS Indian Band. He returned to Richland High School for his junior and senior years.

Before college, Gary spent four years as a US Army photojournalist, honing communications skills he would use throughout academic and corporate life. Gary got out of the Army in 1981 and enrolled at Tarrant County Junior College in 1982. TCJC band director, the late Jack Cobb, invited Gary to play in the band there a couple times a week.

It was at TCJC that Gary remembered how much fun it was to play music, and he joined a community band and began playing at church. Before long, he was playing nearly every day. Mr. Cobb arranged for Gary to meet the music faculty at TCU. Between the GI Bill and Gary’s band scholarship, he finished at TCU in 1986.

After college, Gary went to work for 3M, starting with a sales territory in Tulsa. He was a member of the Tulsa Praise Orchestra from its inception in 1995. Gary took a different job with 3M in 1999, and returned to Fort Worth. That’s when he used the Tulsa Praise blueprint to found the Metro Praise Orchestra for church musicians. He began working with youth 10 years later.

Gary and his wife Rene live in Keller and have a daughter, three sons, and six grandchildren.

KAYJO - Gary Phillips

Interested in supporting KAYJO?

Your tax-deductible donation can help us keep tuition low for families and concerts free for the community.