Dr. Wayne Pressley
Wayne Pressley (1932-2003) is best remembered for his 32 years as a member of the music faculty at Mars Hill College where he served as Director of Bands from 1962 – 1968 and as Chairman of the Department of Music from 1975 until his retirement in 1994. Throughout his tenure at Mars Hill, Dr. Pressley taught applied music, conducting, and worked with his colleague Raymond Babelay in developing several generations of music educators. While at Mars Hill, and well into his retirement, Dr. Pressley was a much sought after clinician and adjudicator who seemed most at home when dropping by a band room to talk shop with old friends, listen, coach student teachers, and encourage young band directors. He particularly enjoyed keeping track of former students and was proud of their accomplishments.
Wayne was a native of Haywood County where he graduated from Canton High School in 1950. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Kentucky University and returned to the Bluegrass State (so that his wife Janice could be near her family in Louisville) for his Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. Wayne was intrigued by antique and unusual band instruments and, as his Doctoral Dissertation, produced a descriptive catalog of the musical wind instruments in the Moravian Archives at Old Salem.
Upon completing his undergraduate work, Wayne spent two years as a United States Army Bandsman playing trumpet with the 33rd US Army Band in Munich, Germany. He began his teaching career in 1956 when he was hired as the band director at his hometown Canton High School.
As much as he enjoyed teaching and being in the company of ‘band people’, Wayne also enjoyed performing. In addition to routine school activities, he played regularly at various times with a number of ensembles. These included a dance band while in college, an adjunct position with the North Carolina Symphony, Principal Trumpet with what is now the Western Piedmont Symphony, short-term gigs when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was in town, various ensembles for local church services and weddings, the Asheville Community Band, and the annual Eastern Kentucky University Alumni Band. Additionally, Wayne was an enthusiastic charter member of the Smoky Mountain Brass Band where he played continuously from 1981 until shortly before his passing in 2003.
Above all else, Wayne is remembered for his humility and as a gentle spirit was happy in Mars Hill where he could raise a family in his native Southern Appalachian Mountains. One former colleague eulogized Wayne saying “Very often Dr. Pressley was the most intelligent person in the room and most often Dr. Pressley was the best musician in the room but he never, ever felt the need to call that to anyone’s attention.”
Biography and photos courtesy of David Pressley