A ‘Long’ time of service

Published 11:00 pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Dr. Johnny Long was honored Thursday night in a musical tribute from the Troy University Symphony Band and the Pearl City High School Symphonic Winds from Honolulu, Hawaii.

Dr. Johnny Long was honored Thursday night in a musical tribute from the Troy University Symphony Band and the Pearl City High School Symphonic Winds from Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Troy University Symphony Band and the Pearl City High School Symphonic Winds presented “A Musical Tribute to the Legacy of Dr. John M. Long” Thursday night at the Claudia Crosby Theater. Long is director of bands emeritus at Troy University and namesake of the University’s John M. Long School of Music.

Long conducted the Pearl City High School Symphonic Winds multiple times in Honolulu and was honored to have the band play on his home turf.

The Pearl City High School Symphonic Winds, conducted by Chadwick Kamei, is one of the premier concert band programs in the nation. The band recently returned from a successful performance at the Hamamatsu International Band Festival in Hamamatsu, Japan.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I was humbled that this outstanding band of such talented, young musicians would come to Troy and I was honored to conduct the massed band, Pearl City and Troy University,” Long said. “I was overwhelmed.”

The musical tribute to Long will be the only concert presented by the PCHS Symphonic Winds while on the Mainland.

For the “master,” Dr. Johnny Long, the musical tribute was overwhelming in its totality.

“I feel very fortunate and humbled by the tribute of these fine musicians, here at Troy University and those from Hawaii,” Long said. “I was impressed with the little children that came from Hawaii to do those beautiful dances. The guest conductors, Mike Nakasone and Paula Crider, were outstanding. And, Dr. Mark Walker, the director of Troy University bands, continues to build our program at Troy. It gets better and better. I am humbled to be a small part of it.”

Long spoke of the recognitions he has received and the kindnesses that have been shown to him.

“I don’t deserve this,” he said. “But, it makes me appreciate and love this city and the people here and everywhere even more.”

Crider, who is a longtime friend of Long, characterized him as an “encourager.”

“The first time that I met Dr. Long, he talked to me a little while and, then, as I was about to walk away, he told me that he thought I was going to make a fine band director. That was unsolicited confidence for a young, skinny trumpet player. I’ll never forget those words of encouragement. I’m sure Dr. Long had said those same words many times but it was the first time that he had said them to me.”

Just how many times Long, age 87, has spoken words of encouragement to young musicians, no one will ever know, perhaps as many as crossties on a railroad because he got off to a young start.

A native of Guntersville, Long began his musical career sitting on the piano stool next to his mother when he was six years old.

As a high school band student, the trumpet was his instrument of choice. He also played with a dance band, the Howard Clowns. When the high school found itself without a band director, Long, who was a senior, was asked to fill the post. Long took the baton and has never let it go.

After Long completed a tour with Uncle Sam, he enter the University of Alabama in pursuit of a law degree. However, when he had the opportunity to be the student band director at Jacksonville State College, he followed his heart. While there, he also directed a high school band and initiated the band flag line, which quickly caught on with other bands.

At Jax State, Long met and fell head over heals in love with Mary Lynn Adams. The couple recently celebrated 62 years of happy marriage.

After graduation, Long moved to Fort Payne and introduced a new marching style and unique halftime shows that brought great recognition to his bands.

Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery lured Long away. His bands there received national recognition. Long became known for his marching music. A title to which he quipped, “If you don’t play marches, if you don’t love marches, you don’t love your mother!”

In 1965, Long left the high school ranks and founded the South of the South Marching Band at Troy University and led it to national prominence.

Under his director, the Sound of the South represented the state in four presidential inaugural parades and served as the official band for two presidential visits to Alabama.

During his 31-year career at Troy University, 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. He is 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.

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.