In His Own Words…
“Some of the most appreciative students I ever had were not necessarily
the best musicians by any means. The important thing is that they loved
music, and many times, they are the people who needed it the most. It
seemed to add so much pride and feeling of importance to their school
life. I could give many examples of what music has done for students who
have gone through the band. There was a closeness in those groups, like
family. It was “heart” that bound them together for the sheer love of
music for what music is all about. To me, there is no emotional feeling
that can come close to matching that of a great performance of music by a
band, orchestra, or choir that has performed better than it is possible to
do. You can feel the emotion spreading throughout the entire ensemble
like a fire that consumes. No one has to say anything, but there may be
tears flowing. You can understand why I would not change anything in my
life if it were to be lived over again, other than I would try to be more
This feature article by Hillary Woodworth was run in last Thursday’s
Democrat-Gazette. You may express your appreciation to her by sending her
a note at
John Raymond Brandon: Band director left
BY HILLARY WOODWORTH ARKANSAS
John Raymond Brandon is often called the
grandfather of Arkansas bands and was instrumental in creating the
Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, friend Julia Reynolds
Brandon preferred wearing a suit and tie and a handkerchief in his
pocket. Friends said Brandon inspired students to perform their best,
regardless of their musical abilities.
Brandon once wrote, “Some of the most appreciative students I ever had
were not necessarily the best musicians by any means. The important thing
is that they loved music, and many times, they are the people who needed
it the most.”
Brandon died Monday in his North Little Rock home from congestive heart
He was 98.
He served as executive secretary along with his wife, Ruth Brandon, in
the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association and retired just five
years ago, friends said.
“Ray is probably the most important person in the history of bands in
Arkansas,” friend Eldon Janzen said. “He wrote books on curriculum guides
before there were any.”
Janzen remembers going with Brandon in 1954 to judge the first contest
that gave division ratings to bands in Arkansas.
“Before that they just critiqued the bands, they didn’t rate them,”
Janzen said. “We traveled to regional contests around the state and shared
a room one time. Every morning he got up early and ran five miles. I
decided after that not to share a room with him because he made me feel
Daughter Lisa Doss of Jacksonville followed in her father’s footsteps
and taught band in North Little Rock for several years.
“He would come to the school and work with the students one-on-one. He
had such an intense love for what he did. They were very excited to work
with Mr. Brandon,” Doss said.
Brandon began his career teaching band in Heber Springs briefly and
then at Texarkana High School before moving to North Little Rock. Brandon
retired after serving 22 years as director of bands in the North Little
Rock School District.
Mike Croom, a former student of Brandon’s and retired North Little Rock
music director, said Brandon worked well with all types of students.
“He was a very helpful mentor and friend in the profession,” Croom
said. “He brought out the best in students.”
Brandon loved being with relatives and enjoyed reading history novels.
He also had a hobby of woodworking.
“He made me a lamp out of an old clarinet,” Doss said. “They don’t make
guys like that anymore.”
This story was published Thursday,
December 08, 2005
Copyright © 2005,
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission
of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.