News

Legendary band director, composer and musician John M. Long dead at 94

February 25, 2020

Troy University has lost a legend. Dr. John M. Long passed away at his home on Monday evening at age 94 after a brief illness.

“Dr. Johnny Long has been an icon of Troy University and band music throughout the world. His leadership, not only of the Sound of the South Marching Band and the University but also to generations of musicians, conductors and music educators across the globe, has made a significant impact in bringing our world and our cultures closer together,” said Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. “He promoted the very best in his students, in music and in understanding of our world. His death leaves a void in leadership in many areas, and his friendship will be deeply missed.”

Dr. Long, who served as director of bands at TROY from 1965-1996, was a past president of the American Bandmasters Association and is a member of the National Band Association’s Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors and the Alabama Bandmasters Hall of Fame. In 2010, Dr. Long 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.

Dr. Long Through the Years

He continued to serve the University as Director of Bands Emeritus and Professor of Music Emeritus.

A native of Guntersville, Dr. Long was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha, Delta Chi fraternity and Phi Eta Sigma. He was an active guest conductor, speaker, clinician and adjudicator through the United States, Europe, Canada and Mexico. In 2005, he was honored by the Alabama Music Educators Association with its Barbara Odom Award for lifetime achievements in music education, and holds the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the National Eagle Scout Association. 

During his 31-year career at TROY, Dr. 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 (Nixon and Reagan) and served as the official band for two presidential visits to Alabama. 

“Dr. John M. Long was the Director of Bands from 1965 – 1996. During that time, he built the band program into one of national prominence and quality. He has produced thousands of band directors and musicians who have gone on to careers throughout the United States in all areas of music and music education,” said Director of Bands Dr. Mark Walker. 

“Dr. Long loved his students, family, friends, and Troy University. His influence is evident in band directors throughout the country. He will be sorely missed and forever remembered,” he said.

Before coming to Troy University, Dr. Long directed several high school bands in the state of Alabama, including a stint as band director at Marshall County High School before even receiving his high school diploma and Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee High School, recognized as one of the top high school bands in the country during his tenure. Hundreds of his former students have followed him into the career of music education.

Dr. Johnny Long impacted me more deeply than words can describe,” said Dr. Kerry Palmer, Associate Dean of the College of Education.

“He molded and shaped me into the man I am today, especially during the long hours we spent together when I was drum major of the Sound of the South. he taught me far more about life than he ever did about music, and I take a part of him into my work each and every day,” said Palmer, who was drum major 1992-1994 football seasons.

“TROY is a better place because Johnny Long made his mark here, and I am a better man because of his intentional, 30-year investment in my life. He was truly one of a kind,” he added.

He served in the U.S. Army as a bandsman in World War II, serving in Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

He completed his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville State University, a master’s degree at the University of Alabama and received an honorary doctorate from Jacksonville State. 

Dr. Peter Howard, Department Chair of World Languages and Classics at TROY and professor of classics, is another former student who was deeply influenced by Dr. Long’s style. In the early 1960’s, he was captain for Long’s band at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery.

“Dr. Long did not simply influence us — he became an integral part of the life of every student he ever taught,” he said. “We now do what we do and are who we are today because of who he was and what he did.”

Funeral services for Dr. Long are scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at First United Methodist Church in downtown Troy with Rev. Steve Winton officiating. Burial will follow at Sorrell Chapel on the Troy University campus. Visitation will be held from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Green Hills Funeral Home in Troy.

His full obituary may be found on the Green Hills Funeral Home website.

Troy University Director of Bands Emeritus Dr. John M. Long conducts the Southeast Alabama Community Band in his favorite John Phillip Sousa march "Stars and Stripes Forever" during his final conducting performance in 2017.
Troy University Director of Bands Emeritus Dr. John M. Long conducts the Southeast Alabama Community Band in his favorite John Phillip Sousa march “Stars and Stripes Forever” during his final conducting performance in 2017.