Retiring UA music educators celebrate their long careers

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

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In this Dec. 2012 file photo, Tucker Jolly, founder of Tuba Christmas, leads the audience in singing along with the music at EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall in Akron, Ohio. Jolly and four other longterm faculty members are retiring in 2012/2013. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)

The University of Akron is facing some big changes in its music department, with a slew of long-term faculty members retiring in 2012/2013. As their farewell, a number of the educators will share their talents with students and the community in several final concerts that begin this weekend.

Five of the educators will retire this semester from the band department, including the entire brass faculty as well as woodwind professor George Pope, said professor Bob Jorgensen, director of UA bands and assistant director of the school of music. Jorgensen is among the band retirees, after working 26 years with the music school.

A lot of institutional knowledge will be walking out the door with trumpet professor Scott Johnston (35 years), horn professor Bill Hoyt (32 years), and tuba and euphonium professor Tucker Jolly (33 years), well known for creating the popular TubaChristmas in Akron.

The school’s fourth brass faculty member, Ed Zadrozny, professor of trombone, retired in December.

These men have taught and performed together for more than 30 years, building a program of which they are proud. Johnston, Hoyt and Zadrozny play in the faculty group the Paragon Brass Quintet, and Jolly is a former member.

“I’ve been in higher education a little over 40 years now and it’s just totally unheard of that a faculty in the same area — a brass faculty — would be together that long,” Jorgensen said Monday. “I think first of all … we get along. We like each other. I think they just had a special bond, and a lot of that had to do with the way they treat and nurture their students.”

The school of music has about 350 students, with approximately 80 freshmen entering each year.

Jorgensen, who directs the school’s Symphonic Band, wanted to pay tribute to the retiring band faculty with a special final concert. That will happen at 3 p.m. Sunday at the UA Student Union Ballroom, where Paul Ferguson’s Paragon Suite for Brass Quintet and Wind Ensemble will make its world premiere.

The faculty quintet will play alongside UA’s Symphonic Band.

“Let’s go out together, so to speak,” Jorgensen said. “I love these guys dearly.”

The new piece, composed by 1983 UA alumnus Ferguson, director of Jazz Studies at Case Western Reserve University, contains four movements, each one dedicated to a retiring brass educator.

According to Ferguson, the suite of miniature concerti plays to each of the professors’ strengths. Johnston, whom he describes as a technical marvel, will be featured in the opening Intrada/Toccata; and the passionate Hoyt will be featured in Elegy for Strays, a tribute to Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s co-composer. Jolly’s extraordinary upper tuba register will be featured in Rondo a la Tuck, and Zadrozny’s copious trombone skills will be heard in The Grateful Ed.

“It’s going to be an exciting piece,” Jorgensen said of the new work, which was commissioned by himself and his wife, Anne; Mark and Sandy Auburn; Scott and Linda Johnston; Edward and Pat Zadrozny; the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences; and the UA School of Music.

Jorgensen invited his own mentor, Kenneth Bloomquist, emeritus director of bands at Michigan State University, to guest-conduct two of the program’s seven pieces. The program’s final work Sunday will be all four movements of Respighi’s Pines of Rome, featuring piano, harp and antiphonal brass from the UA Concert Band.

The director of bands is also looking forward to seeing his former students and assistant band directors, many of whom have gone on to teach and direct. Those planning to attend include former student Dustin Seifert, director of bands for Eastern New Mexico; and former assistant band directors Barry Martin of Grand Valley State University in Michigan and Jody Besse of the University of Cincinnati.

Jorgensen, 67, said he expects a number of the music school’s nine 2012/2013 retirees to stay in Northeast Ohio, and some may teach at UA on a part-time basis. He will continue to conduct the Freedom Brass Band of Northeast Ohio and hopes to get down to his place in Naples, Fla., more often.

“We all have close ties to the University of Akron and we want the school of music to continue to prosper. We’re proud of what we’ve built these 35 years,” he said.

Two woodwind faculty members also will be recognized at a post-performance reception Sunday: flute professor Pope, who is retiring after 35 years teaching at UA, and classical and jazz saxophone professor Rich Shanklin, who retired last year after 30 years at the school.

Finally, Sam Gordon, director of choral studies who is retiring after 19 years of service; and Michele Mills, keyboard and theory teacher who retired last year with 35 years, will be honored.

Other final concerts for the retiring educators are:

• Pope with pianist Eric Charnofsky in a free University of Akron faculty recital at 5:30 p.m. today at Guzzetta Recital hall, 157 University Ave., Akron. A reception will follow.

• The University of Akron’s Concert Choir and Chamber choir, conducted by Sam Gordon, 3 p.m. April 28 at Guzzetta Recital Hall. Free.

• Paragon’s Last Gasp, 3 p.m. May 5, Guzzetta Recital Hall. Musical retrospective will honor three retiring members of the faculty brass quintet as well as guest tubist and former member Jolly. Free.

For more information on the concerts, call 330-972-8301 or email

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or

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