Check Events From the 1960s

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
September 1995

Many important events happened in West Virginia instrumental music education during the 1906s. A quick glance at this decade reveals that some new activities developed and a few friends were lost.

In 1960, Dr. Thomas Wikstrom came to the West Virginia Department of Education as state music supervisor. The same year Don Riggio joined the staff of the music department at West Virginia Tech. Riggio was a clarinetist who had played with the Toledo Symphony.

In 1965, three hundred students auditioned for the WMEA All-State Band, and 98 were selected. Of these, nine were from Morgantown High, seven from Charleston High, seven from South Charleston High, six from Fairmont West, and six from Huntington Vincent High. Eight schools had three members in the band, eleven had two, and sixteen schools had one each.

Tau Chapter (West Virginia) of Phi Beta Mu began honoring the "Bandmaster of the Year" in 1965-66. Robert J. Thomas, director of the New Martinsville instrumental program was the first bandmaster to receive this award. He had been an active participant in Ohio Valley musical events for many years, and he was the organizer of the Paden City Junior High School Band.

John P. Brisbane had become band director in St. Marys in 1938 and built an outstanding instrumental music program. He later served for several years as superintendent of the Pleasants County Schools. In 1967, he resigned that position to become assistant to the admissions director at West Virginia University.

Clark Seidoff, a former band director at Elkins High School who was serving his second term as mayor of Elkins, was killed in an automobile accident in the spring of 1966. In November 1966, the Charleston High School Mountain Lion Band directed by Robert Leurant traveled to New York City to march in the Macy's Christmas Parade.

George J. Dietz, organizer of the Parkersburg High School Band, served as its director for 30 years. He was fondly known as "the little man with the baton." Under his direction the band grew from 27 members in 1927 to I 10 members, winning four national championships. Director Dietz died in 1966 at the age of 77.

Parkersburg South High School opened in the fall of 1967. Edward McKown was the first band director and Jack Simon the principal. When Jack was in high school in Spencer, he played tuba under the direction of the legendary Karl "Doc" Brown. Also, during the later 1960s West Virginia music education on the college level received a major boost as Fairmont, West Liberty, West Virginia State, and West Virginia University all constructed major new music facilities.