The Troy University Concert and Symphonic bands are set to host the annual spring concert on Tuesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. This year’s event is dedicated to the late Dr. John M. Long, legendary band director, composer and musician.
To mark the two-year anniversary of Long’s death on Feb. 24, 2020, the overall theme of the concert can be summed up as “never forgotten, hope everlasting and legacy,” said conductor/graduate teaching assistant Jordan Romo. With COVID interrupting musical performances the last two years, this is the first opportunity the bands have had to acknowledge him in a concert setting.
“With the two-year anniversary of his death having just passed…it’s something that has weighed on a lot of people,” Romo said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of different styles. It’s a nice commemoration of everyone that’s been able to know him and those that are now attending the school that are able to join in his legacy.”
The concert will feature several pieces, including “A Slavic Farewell” by Vasilij Agapkin, “Rock Music” by Alex Shapiro, “Renaissance Reimagined” and “Joy in All Things” by Brian Balmages, “Whip and Spur” by Thomas Allen and Ray Cramer, “Stardance” by Michael Sweeney and more. Stephen Melillo’s “Never Forgotten” played by the Symphonic Band is specifically dedicated to Long.
Emma Fell, conductor/graduate teaching assistant, said they tried to select pieces that would get each musician involved and engaged.
“We try to make it where everyone gets to show off their individual talents a little bit more and have a good experience,” Fell said. “The Symphonic Band is playing some significantly upper-level music this concert. It’s going to be great.”
Shad Steptoe, graduate teaching assistant, joins Romo and Fell as the third concert organizer/conductor. The trio is set to graduate this semester.
The concert is free and open to the public and will be held in the Trojan Center Theatre.
The life and legacy of Dr. John M. Long
Long served as director of bands at TROY from 1965-1996, was a past president of the American Bandmasters Association and was a member of the National Band Association’s Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors and the Alabama Bandmasters Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was named honorary president of the National Band Association, and in 2011, was the subject of a feature piece for CBS Evening News on his continued involvement as conductor of the Southeast Alabama Community Band. In 2012, he was elected Honorary Life Member of the American Bandmasters Association.
During his 31-year career at TROY, Long also served the University in various capacities, including chair of the music department, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and dean of the School of Fine Arts. Two buildings on the Troy Campus bear his name – John Maloy Long Hall and the Hawkins-Adams-Long Hall of Honor, which houses the NBA’s Hall of Fame.
Under his direction, the University’s Sound of the South marching band represented the state in two presidential inaugural parades and served as the official band for two presidential visits to Alabama.
Despite his many accolades, what Long is most remembered for is his energetic personality and the ability to make those around him feel welcomed and important.
“I met him several times throughout my childhood. He was always very encouraging and would end every conversation with, ‘Stay in school. Get good grades. Practice,” Fell recalled. “When I got here and became part of the program I could see it in action—that same sense of community and culture of striving for excellence, and that’s still very much around to this day.”
Romo’s first interaction with Long ended with the declaration that she and her then-boyfriend, now husband, would end up married.
“Dr. Long would sit in with the community band and give comments and critiques occasionally and (we) walked up and thanked him for coming and he said, ‘Are ya’ll two together?’ and we said yes. He said, ‘Great. Ya’ll look just so compatible. I’m going to put you in my book,’” she said. “He said he had a book of everyone he thought would eventually get married and he would write their names in it, and 9 times out of 10 they would actually end up getting married. It was a really adorable interaction. He was so full of life and energetic.”
Dr. Mark Walker, Director of Bands, joined the University staff at the John M. Long School of Music in 2002 and said Long was a lifelong learner and endlessly supportive of his fellow faculty, staff and students.
“He spent his life trying to help and uplift other people. He was not someone to tear people down. He was extremely loyal, he always looked for the good in people and he always gave people the benefit of the doubt, even if it was detrimental to him,” he said. “He was a really remarkable person. I noticed after I’d been here a few years that he would still go, in his mid-to-late 80s at the time, to clinics to support his friends and his former students. I asked him once why he was still going to all these clinics and he told me, ‘I still have stuff to learn.’”
“He’s an example for all of us. He was so influential, but more importantly he was a down-to-earth, genuine person. What you saw was what you got. He just wanted every person to be as good as they could be and to be happy. One of a kind.”