Posts Tagged ‘high school bands’

The Most Unusual Funeral I Have Ever Attended

August 9, 2013

It was truly unique.  It was also very moving, especially for anyone who had played in a Bob Barr directed Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band.  I was one of  the few in the Evangel Temple sanctuary who had done that.   I was in the original Bob Barr Jordan band that was formed in 1946 when he came to the school.  Jimmy Cross, who died this week in Newnan of heart disease,  became a member about six years later. 

More than 20 years ago, Jimmy, along with other Jordan band alumni, formed an alumni band to play at a Jordan-Columbus football game half-time show that memorialized Bob Barr shortly after he died.  My contribution was to announce the show on the public address  system at Kinnette Stadium.  So many Jordan alumni showed up that the stands were packed. When the band came on the field playing the band’s signature “St. Louis Blues March,”  the crowd jumped  to its feet cheering.  I almost couldn’t speak my next lines I was so moved.  I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of tears in that  stadium that night.  My article in the July, 1991 issue of  Reader’s Digest tells the story.

  The band did not disband after that night.  It morphed into the Bob Barr Community Band, which is now made up of alumni from many high schools,  and, at Jimmy’s request it performed at his funeral.  He was also a member of the 17-piece Cavaliers, which also performed today at his funeral.   

It was a Christian service, but none of the songs played were hymns.  The Cavalier’s opening number was “Stars Fell on Alabama,” one of Jimmy’s favorites.  It also  played Count Basie’s swinging “Good News,” another  of his favorites.  For the closing number, most of the Cavaliers players got up and joined the Bob Barr Community band. 

Gene Kelley, who played first-chair trumpet and was the JVHS band president when I was the drum major, wowed the crowd in  the stands at a Jordan half-time show in 1947 when he played a solo of “Stormy Weather.”  It was so popular that he did it again the next year, and it became a tradition and the band’s first-chair trumpet played it for a number of years.  Jimmy played it when he became first trumpet.  Before Gene died he asked Jimmy to play it at his funeral, which he did, and today it was played for Jimmy by Bill Edwards and the community band.    

Following the service, the band played a 25-minute concert, which did include a hymn, and ended with the band playing the “St. Louis Blues March.”  Very special, indeed, for a very  special trumpet player, husband, father, grandfather, bank chairman, and, certainly not least of all, musician.

Jordan Band Director Wins the Harry Kruger Memorial Award

April 9, 2013
Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

The Jordan Vocational High  School Band is back in the game, and the young band director responsible  was honored at the Columbus Community Orchestra concert at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.  When Jordan Band Director Adam Mitchell was named this year’s winner of the Harry Kruger Memorial Award for Excellence in Conducting I was reminded of what another young man did in 1946.

Bob Barr also took over a 17-member Jordan band that could barely play an easy march and in no time at all beefed  up the number of musicians  and had it winning superior ratings in the district music festival.  The band went on to become national champions in a competition in New York, play in presidential inaugurations, and travel to play in such places as Los Angeles.  He also was the director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Now, another young man has come along to get the Jordan Band back to winning superior ratings in district music festivals.  The band, under Adam Mitchell’s leadership, has done that for two years in a row.  He got a huge hand when Columbus Community Orchestra Director William Fry announced that he had won the Kruger award.  The late Harry Kruger taught music at Columbus College and was director of the Columbus Symphony for a number of years.

Why the Year’s Muscogee Teacher of the Year has Special Meaning for me

September 17, 2012

Hardaway High Band Director Vincent Sneed, MCSD Teacher of the Year, being congratulated after his talk to the Rotary Club of Columbus

Since the teacher who probably influenced my life the most was a high school band director, I was heartened by the featured speaker at Wednesday’s Rotary Club of Columbus meeting.  For the only time that I know of, a high school band director was named as the Muscogee County School District Teacher of the Year.

Vincent Sneed is the director of the Hardaway High School Band.  He told Rotarians that while he wants his students to apply themselves to play their instruments well, he emphasizes the importance of their caring about and serving their fellow human beings.

Sneed, who speaks a number of foreign languages, told about his many travels in the world. He said when he finally got to Africa, he visited Ethiopia. He said when he settled in his hotel room, he noticed someone slid a message under his room door. It warned him not to go out on the street because it was too dangerous. He would be  stabbed and robbed. When he ask the desk clerk about the warning, he told him not to worry about it, just don’t speak to anyone.  After he went outside, in no time at all, a man approached him and asked him for some money for food. He gave the man some money.  Others did the same thing and he gave them money, too.  One old woman who approached him said nothing, just pointed to he baby girl’s mouth and held out her hand. He gave her some money, too.

When he flew back to the United States and his plane landed in New York, he got into a taxi and the driver told him his meter was broken and the trip would cost him $75.  Sneed knew he was being scammed.  He said he reflected on how a lot of Americans really don’t know how fortunate they are, and don’t really understand people of different cultures overseas.

When he had told his students he was going to Africa, some said he shouldn’t because it was too dangerous, that people would shoot darts  at him. He said when he got back he tried to help his students better understand what Africa is like today.

When he finished his talk, the Rotarians gave him a standing ovation.

As I said, this was special because a band director greatly influenced my life.  I was in the legendary Bob Barr Jordan High Red Jacket Band.  He was a very inspiring man, who really cared about his students. He helped me get started in broadcasting. And it was also special because my son Rick played trumpet in the Hardaway Marching Band and French horn in the concert band. He also had an outstanding director and teacher. David Gregory led that band to impressive heights, including coming in first in a marching band contest in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1976.  Hardaway represented Georgia in the bicentennial band festival that featured bands from the 13 original colonies.

Tnanks to Vincent Sneed for continuing a great tradition.

The Return of Eric Barr

April 11, 2009
Not too long after Bob Barr came to Jordan High in 1946 to become the school’s first full-time band director,  band members, including me, became aware that he and Annie Barr had a baby.  A few years later, when Eric Barr wasn’t much more than a toddler,  he was dressed in a drum major’s uniform and marched beside the band’s real drum major.  He had become the band’s mascot.  In time,  he would become the real drum major, himself.
Eric Barr, Jordan Red Jacket Band 1963 Drum Major, from JVHS yearbook (courtesy Barbara Motos)

Eric Barr, Jordan Red Jacket Band 1963 Drum Major, from JVHS yearbook (courtesy Barbara Motos)

Over the years, growing up as the first son of accomplished musicians and educators, Bob and Annie Barr,  he became quite proficient in playing the oboe by the time he became a member of his father’s band.  He was so good that he later ended up as the principal soloist of the Dallas Symphony, a world-class orchestra. 

There were some stops in between.  He went to Oberlin College,  where he met and married Cathy,  who also plays the oboe.  After that, he played in the United States Marine Corps Band in Washington for four years.  “I was drafted,” he told me.  “I could go into the Army and serve two years,  or I could go into the Marine Corps and play in the Marine Corps band for four.  I choose the Marine Corps.”  That had a number of perks, including not having to take basic training.  

Serving those four years was quite memorable for him because he spent a lot of time playing for events at the White House,  because the Marine Corps Band is considered  “the President’s own.”  Jimmy Motos,   respected Columbus educator, musician, clarinetist, vocalist,  announcer for the Bob Barr Community Band, and actor,  and Eric’s best friend in the Bob Barr Jordan Band,  told me that Eric played for both the Johnson and Nixon administrations.  “He played for the weddings of both Johnson and Nixon’s daughters. Eric told me that things were more laid back when Johnson was in the White House – you know,  Southern hospitality and all of that.  But, Nixon was more formal.”



Eric brought down the house at the Bob Barr Community Band concert at the Springer on Friday, April 3, 2009, when he played an oboe solo.  And, I believe it wasn’t just because he is Bob Barr’s son,  but because the performance was so outstanding,  but then,  that’s what you would expect of man who was the principal oboest for the Dallas Symphony for 33 years before he retired.

Not only did he and Cathy contribute their musical services by playing with the Bob Barr COmmunity Band,  but after dress rehearsal on Thursday night, he presented a check for $1,000 as a gift from the Barr family, which includes his mother,  a sister and a brother. 

I told him, “Not only did you come and play for the band, you left a thousand bucks with it. That was really special.”

“I should have done it long ago, ” he replied.

Yes, it was a very special concert at the Springer,  one I was happy to announce. While, Jimmy  is the regular announcer,  I was asked to announce this concert because I emceed the first concert of the band twenty years ago.  Since the band was formed as a tribute to my Jordan band director Bob Barr,  I was honored to it then and now.

Dick McMichael, Jimmy Motos,  announcers for the Bob Barr Community Band (Photo: courtesy Barbara Motos)

Dick McMichael, Jimmy Motos, announcers for the Bob Barr Community Band (Photo: courtesy Barbara Motos)

A National Headquarters in Columbus You Probably Didn’t Know About

April 10, 2009

Columbus, Georgia is national headquarters for AFLAC, TSYS,  Synovus, Carmike Cinemas, and was national headquarters  Royal Crown Cola and, of course, the home of Fort Benning,  but did you know it is national headquarters for the  High School Band Directors National Association,  and its National High School Band Director’s Hall of Fame?

Bob Barr Community Band,  Springer Opera House

Bob Barr Community Band, National Band Director's Hall of Fame and 20th ANniversary Concert, Springer Opera House

I learned this when I accepted George Corridino’s invitation to emcee the Bob Barr Community Band concert at the Springer Opera House honoring the Band Director’s Hall of Fame inductees.  When I pressed George for more information about the Hall of Fame, he said, “You need to go see it, Dick.”

“You mean that it’s here in Columbus?”

“Yes,  it’s on Front Avenue.”

It is indeed on Front Avenue in the Arsenal 1 building, now occupied by the Columbus State University Fine Arts Department,  but I learned the hard way that you can’t get in using the Front Avenue entrance.  It’s locked.  You have to go to the Bay Street entrance.  I did, and I finally got in, where I saw portraits and bios lining the walls,  and there were some artifacts,  like a band hat with a big plume on it.

Band hat, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame, Columbus, Georgia

Band hat, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame, Columbus, Georgia

The inductees are high school band directors from all over the country, including the great John Phillip Sousa,  who was a high school band director in New York State before he formed his internationally famous band,  thrilling American audiences with his “Stars and Stripes Forever,”  which he used a finale to his hugely popular concerts.  My grandfather took my mother, who was a little girl at the time,  to see and hear Sousa when he played at the Springer Opera House in the 1920’s.
John Phillip Sousa, Inductee, National High School Band DIrector's Hall of Fame

John Phillip Sousa, Inductee, National High School Band DIrector's Hall of Fame


Among the portraits you can see at the Hall of Fame,  is the one of Bob Barr,  the legendary Jordan High Red Jacket Band director whose bands won national competitions,  and for whom the Bob Barr Community Band is named.  Mr. Barr  –  his former students all still call him Mr. Barr –  insipred a lot of young people to go on to do well in life.

Bob Barr, George Corridino, Inductees, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame

Bob Barr, George Corradino, Inductees, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame

Another Columbus music educator icon,  has his portrait right next to Barr’s.  George Corradino,  who left his job as assistant director of the Auburn University Band to come to Columbus as band director at Columbus High,  did so at Barr’s suggestion and they became very good friends.  Dr. Corradino ended up as director of the Muscogee County School District’s music program before he retired and started teaching at Troy State.   He has been director of the Bob Barr Community Band for most of its 20-year existence.

Bill Pharris,  who was a Bob Barr Student,  and who went on to director a number of high school bands, including a very successful tenure at Hardaway High in Columbus,  is also an inductee.  George tells me that Pharris is Bob Barr’s most outstanding protege. 

Dr. Oliver Boone, also a former high school band director,  is the executive director for the High School Band Director’s Association.  Other than providing the Hall of Fame for band directors,  it offers a number of services to band directors all over the country, and it is organizing a unique online high school band exhibition.  You can read about it by going to this link.

Oliver Boone,  Executive Director of the High School Band Director's National Association (Photo courtesy of the NHSBNA)

Oliver Boone, Executive Director of the High School Band Director's National Association (Photo courtesy of the NHSBNA)

It is, in my view,  that this national organization is in Columbus because this city has been the home to some truly fine high school band directors.  We have mentioned some, but there are others. One of them was David Gregory,  who directed the Hardaway High School Band when my son Rick was in it.  That was the band that took first place in the Allentown, Pennsylvania Bi-centennial Band Festival in 1976.  I hope to see Gregory’s picture hanging in that hall of fame soon.

So now you know,  Columbus is the national headquarters for the High School Band Director’s National Association and Hall of Fame.  

Coming up,  another reason the Bob Barr Community Band Hall of Fame Inductee and 20th Anniversary Concert was so special.


April 9, 2009


  Thanks to newsy blogs folks can get information about some interesting events, people and places they don’t get in the mainstream media.   I came across something interesting to anyone who has ever been influenced by a band director.  It’s something that is right here in Columbus and I didn’t even know it was here.

Now,  to learn more about it,  simply go to my podcast link.  (I have to do a podcast occasionally just so I don’t forget how to get it online.)


Dick McMichael, Dick's World Broadcasting Network

Dick McMichael, Dick's World Broadcasting Network

“Mr. Music,” George Corradino, Says MCSD Music Program Needs a Supervisor

November 24, 2008


Ben Mallard)

Dr. George Corradino playing with Columbus Community Orchestra (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)

 Dr. George Corradino, as only he could, used the occasion of being featured soloist of the Columbus Community Orchestra, to issue a call to action in support of school music in the Muscogee County School District. He had just finished playing “Georgia On My Mind,” with the orchestra, and he added an unaccompanied solo of Italian music his mother loved, both crowd pleasers that got him a big hand, when he launched into an appeal for everyone there to lobby the school board to hire a supervisor of music. That’s the job from which he retired. The system hasn’t had one for years, now, and he thinks it shows.

  “We are about to get a new superintendent of schools so now is a good time to push for an emphasis on school music and hiring a supervisor of music, ” he told the crowd.

  Afterwards, as we were walking out to ours cars, I said, “George, I guess the reason we don’t have a supervisor of music is because of the money.”

  “It’s not the money, Dick. They would save money by having a supervisor.”

  “Then what is it?”

   “I don’t know, but it’s not the money.  By having a central office for the school music program they could save money in ordering supplies, for one thing. And how about hiring music teachers? Principals are hiring them now for each school.  Music is not their speciality. They don’t have the qualifications for hiring band directors and other music teachers.”

  Over all, he thinks the music program in the schools has gone down. It appears to me that he is right. For instance, over all, the high school bands are nowhere nearly as impressive as they were for many years, years when the superintendent and school board ardently supported the program.  That support started when Dr. William Henry Shaw became superintendent after World War II and it increased over the years. But, where is it now?  

  The strange thing is that Columbus is a music city. The Schowb School of Music at Columbus State University is one of the best in the country. The school’s Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble are both outstanding.  The Columbus Symphony is a fine orchestra. And we have community groups such as the Bob Barr Community Band, the Cavaliers big band, and the Columbus Community Orchestra, providing not only music for all of us to enjoy, but giving an outlet to adult amateur musicians. But, what has happened to the Muscogee County School District’s music program?  

  George was getting really hot about it because he, like me, knows how far reaching a good music program can be. He knows that music students usually make good overall students and learn self-discipline which helps them all through life.  Have you ever noticed how many physcians are musicians? The first violinist of the Community Band is Dr. Ken Goldman, a Columbus surgeon. Dr. Mary Schley, a retired pediatrician, plays viola. My late cousin, Dr. Billy Dodd of Macon,  loved to play the piano, and had his own dance and jazz bands.

Joey Cumming)

Dr. Ken Goldman, surgeon, first violinist of the Columbus Community Orchestra (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)

  Yes, music is very important in life.  Let’s hope the new superintendent and the school board realize that and act accordingly.  If they don’t, beleive me, George will be after them because he has the energy to do it. Though my age, 78, he still goes full steam, giving his time to lead the Cavaliers Big Band, the Bob Barr Community Band and play for all sorts of occasions.

Joey Cumming)

Columbus Community Orchestra, william E. Fry, Conductor, James B Mallard III, Assistant Conductor (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)