Beloved band director, educator becomes first COVID-19 death in southeast Texas, officials say

Mike Westbrook, who led the Big Blue Machine at Hardin-Jefferson High School near Beaumont for 13 years, has died from COVID-19. (Hardin-Jefferson ISD)

SOUR LAKE, Texas – A longtime band director in Jefferson County near Beaumont has died after contracting COVID-19, officials said.

Mike Westbrook, who has led the Big Blue Machine at Hardin-Jefferson High School for 13 years, was remembered by the district in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

Westbrook was a talented musician and served in public education for 29 years, Hardin-Jefferson ISD said.

Beaumont news station 12 News Now reported that area coaches and band directors posted their condolences on private Facebook pages. Many described Westbrook as an energetic and fun-loving person.

“He was always an advocate for the students. Mike was not afraid to speak his mind when it came to giving his students the best learning environment possible. He set high expectations for his students but gave them endless encouragement to guide them in their pursuit,” one person said.

According to 12 News Now, Westbrook was also a member of the Symphony of Southeast Texas for over 30 years. The organization took to their Facebook page to give their condolences.

It is with deep sorrow that we share that Mike Westbrook has passed away from the COVID-19 virus. A treasured member of...

Posted by The Symphony of Southeast Texas on Thursday, March 26, 2020

“Members of the orchestra will miss his smile and wonderful sound,” the organization said. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to his wife, Karen and his family. Gabriel just got a great duet partner!”

Hardin-Jefferson ISD said that Westbrook was last on the high school campus on March 20, 12 News reported. District officials are cooperating with the health department and are assisting in identifying any individuals who may have come into contact with this employee in recent days.

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