Teaching through performance: Dr. Larry Blocher’s accomplished TROY career ends in retirement

Blocher has been with the University through numerous changes and growths over the last 17 years.

Blocher has been with the University through numerous changes and growths over the last 17 years.

A 17-year member of the Troy University family, Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts and Director of the School of Music Dr. Larry Blocher is retiring on July 1. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Blocher served as an associate conductor with the University bands and taught undergraduate and graduate music education courses.

Blocher is currently a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Band Research and the Project and Committee Chair for the National Band Association. He has served on the editorial board of the Music Educators Journal and the Advisory Board to the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic and has presented clinic sessions at the Midwest on four separate occasions.

Blocher is is a past-president of the Kansas Bandmasters Association and received both the Outstanding Bandmaster and Outstanding Contributor to Music Awards from the Kansas Bandmasters Association. He is also a recipient of the Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, the University Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award (Wichita State), the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Commissioning Award and was named a Lowell Mason Fellow by The National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

Dr. Larry Blocher and Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. shake hands.
Blocher credits Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., right, with providing the type of leadership that encourages growth.

Additionally, Blocher is a co-principal author of the “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band” series and has been a guest clinician/conductor/adjudicator in 33 states and 11 countries. 

Despite a career built around teaching, he said he never intended to enter the profession. He started teaching at age 27 at the University of Dayton, serving as Director of Jazz Studies and teaching saxophone. His career took off from there.

“That opened the door to a doctoral graduate assistantship at The Florida State University, and as I finished my doctorate there, I realized I enjoyed teaching as well as performing,” he said. “They were two sides of the same coin. Conducting, arranging, composing all eventually became important parts of my life. I decided not to focus on one specific area of music education.”

From there, he served as Chairman of Music Education at Syracuse University, Assistant Director of Bands and Coordinator of Music Education at Morehead State University and spent 10 years as Associate Director of Bands and Director of Music Education at Wichita State University. 

While at Wichita State, Blocher was offered a position at TROY.

“The timing was perfect for our family,” he said. “Our children were in college, so we took this opportunity to combine teaching and conducting with the challenge to help build on the legacy of Dr. Long.”

Appointed Director of the School of Music in 2005, Blocher added the role of Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts in 2014. He gives all the credit for the College’s successes to the people around him.

“It’s always been about the people who’ve taken me under their wing and helped me along the way. It’s been a very blessed career,” he said. “I’ve always worked very hard, as hard as I could work, but surrounding yourself with great people tends to raise your own expectations of yourself.”

Periods of Change

Over the last 17 years, TROY and the School of Music have drastically changed. From 16 full time faculty to 25, building a reputation as more than a “band school,” relocating from Smith Hall to the $9 million John M. Long Hall, a $1 million renovation of Smith Hall and two accrediting reaffirmations from the National Association of Schools of Music, Blocher has played an important role.

Dr. Larry Blocher conducts during a 2016 concert.
Dr. Larry Blocher conducts during a 2016 homeschool concert.

“We’ve been able build collaborations within our college, introduce opportunities for international travel and are working to build partnerships,” he said. “TROY is already on the map, but what we’ve been able to do helps keep us there.”

Blocher credits successes in the college to a commitment to team building and a faculty focused on student success. 

“We have an incredible faculty. They’re terrific educators and team players who want to build something authentic,” he said. “One of the most important things about Troy University is that there is a place for all students here. As Dr. Thrasher comes on board, I believe he will continue the team-building process and take things to the next level. That’s always been a personal goal—to leave things better than I found them.” 

Memorable Moments

The Rainbows in the Clouds and Salute to Dr. Long concerts from the spring semester, working with graduate and undergraduate students and conducting the top Honor Band at SEUS this past semester are some of his most recent memories. But, a visit from the legendary Dr. John M. Long tops the list. 

At 87 years old, Long came to Blocher and said they needed to change the music education program. He soon realized “they” meant him.

“He was always learning. I’ll never forget that moment. He taught me that if teachers work hard, continue to learn, and remain focused on students, their influence can be generational,” he said. “I saw that in Dr. Long. For him, teaching was about building relationships, making people ‘feel,’ and making connections. To me, that was his greatest legacy. I hope that will be one of mine as well.”  

Looking forward to the Future

Though he’s retiring, Blocher is not entering into retirement. He spent a week this month at Kansas State University to conduct an honor band, and he’s also working on music for the Outback Bowl and developing ideas for writing projects.

Dr. Larry Blocher conducts during a 2016 concert.
Blocher and his wife of 40 years, Elaine, will be moving to the Birmingham area to pursue interests outside of the classroom.

Like he’s done for the last 25 years, he’ll continue to be the co-principal author of the “Teaching Music through Performance in Band” series that has amassed 12 volumes.

“There is a philosophical thread in that series that’s woven its way through my entire career,” he said. “This series has given me the chance to interact with so many wonderful people.” 

He is also looking forward to spending more time with his wife of 40 years, Elaine, their four children, 10 grandchildren and their rescue dog, Max. After a 38-year career teaching music, most recently at Troy Elementary School, Elaine is also retiring.

“She’s been willing to go wherever I wanted to go, because we’ve always believed that it didn’t matter where we were as long as we were together,” he said. “She is one of the best teachers I know. She’s taught me so much about students and keeping them the center of decision-making.”

One final Thought

“As we transition to Dr. Thrasher as Dean of the CCFA and Dr. Hui-Ting Yang as the Interim Director of the School of Music, I am confident they are going to be terrific and bring new and exciting ideas. I believe all the good people in our college will continue to work together in positive ways,” Blocher said. “I will always be grateful to Dr. Hawkins for this opportunity, and I will always remember the students and the special colleagues who make Troy University a world-class university and a family.”