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W. W. Jacobus

W. W. Jacobus

By Jean Gordon
Daily Courier Staff Writer

November 14, 2003
FOREST CITY — Two men who brought notice to Rutherford County and the Southeast and changed the course of high school band music were inducted into the North Carolina Bandmaster's Association Hall of Fame this week in Winston-Salem.

The late D. C. Cole and the late W. W. Jacobus were among nine band directors recognized during the State Conference of the N.C. Music Educator's Association.

Members of both families attended the induction ceremonies.

Neil Underwood, president of the N.C. Bandmaster's Association, said the criteria for being inducted into the Hall of Fame is that the band director left a lasting impression, not only on the students they taught, but also on the state and the community of bands as a whole. Of those honored this year, six are deceased.

This marked only the second year the NCBA has inducted members into the Hall of Fame.

Underwood, a native of Forest City, is the band director at North Lincoln High School and was a student of Jacobus when he attended East Rutherford High School.

"I nominated both Jacobus and D. C. Cole. I felt like they were well deserving and it was gratifying to see at the conference, how many people were affected by these two gentleman, "Underwood said."

"He is the reason I got in this career. Being in the band program at East Rutherford definitely sparked my interest. Working with him and seeing how much passion he put into his job, definitely motivated me," Underwood said of Jacobus.

Underwood said at least 13 high school band directors from across the state who attended the conference during the weekend, had been taught by Jacobus, either directly or indirectly.

"Jacobus and D. C. Cole were the reason they had gotten into band directing. They all felt as they are descendants of D.C. Cole," Underwood said.

Among direct descendants of D.C. Cole and also a student of Jacobus — Christopher Cole — accepted the recognition on behalf of his grandfather.

From Kings Mountain High School where Chris Cole has been band director for 27 years, he reflected on his grandfather's life and on Jacobus and their contribution to music in Rutherford County.

D. C. Cole, who was born in 1890 and died in 1974, "was instrumental in pioneering the band movement in Rutherford County as well as surrounding areas," Cole said.

D. C. Cole. joined the Cliffside Community Band in 1907 and graduated from Boiling Springs High School in 1914. He became the lead band director of the Cliffside Band in 1916.

Cole then had a two-year stint in the Army during World War I where he was a member of the 117th Infantry Army Band.

After his discharge from the Army, Cole returned to Rutherford County to reorganize the Cliifside Band. Subsequently he organized bands in Avondale in 1921 and Spindale in 1923, serving as director of all three bands.

During the 1930s, Cole attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, majoring in violin. In 1932, he organized and taught school bands at Cool Springs, Forest City, R-S Central High School, Tri-High, Harris, Ciiffside, Hendersonville, Newton and Greer, S. C.

Cole also organized the 24-piece Rutherford County School Orchestra as well as organizing the first ever All County Band.

"To have my grandfather, D. C., as well as my former East Rutherford High School director, W. W. Jacobus, inducted on the same program was very emotional," Chris Cole said. Both gentlemen taught me so much and had a tremendous influence on my musical career.

"I feel very honored to have had them as teachers and know they are great choices for the Hall of Fame," he added.

In addition to Chris Cole and his wife, other family members attending were, D. C. Cole's son Roger of Forest City and his daughters, Margaret McGinnis of Kings Mountain and Helen Cole Krause of Forest City. McGinnis's son, Greg, and Jane Krause Hill of Forest City, also attended.

Hill was a member of the East Rutherford High School Band when Jacobus was director. She is the chorus director at East Rutherford and Forest City Elementary.

In 1971, Jacobus hosted a musical tribute to Cole who had earned the reputation as Mr. Music Man of Rutherford County. At that program, Cole was asked to lead several of the band numbers.

The East Rutherford High School Band was the honor guard at Cole's funeral a few years later.

Rita Jacobus Whittemore of Bostic accepted the Hall of Fame induction honor on behalf of her father, W. W. Jacobus.

"It was a very humbling experience to accept this honor on behalf of our family," she said. "It was very emotional."

Jacobus was the band director at East Rutherford High School for a decade from 1966-1976. He and his family came to Rutherford County from Georgetown, S. C. where he had served as band director at several South Carolina schools. At Loris High School, where he was band director, the band honors a student each year with a W.W. Jacobus Award.

Jacobus was the first person to begin a color guard team in the south.

While at East Rutherford, Jacobus led the East Rutherford High Cavalier Band to two National Championships and on a trip to the World Music Festival in Europe, the band placed third in the world.

The band also competed in Canada and Mexico. He also formed the East Rutherford Cavi Band.

Jacobus was remembered by one former East student, Tony Beam, as being the "Bear Bryant and the Vince Lombardi of our lives."

After his career at East, Jacobus conducted band clinics throughout the Southeast until his death in March 1986.

The medals and trophies won by the Cavalier Band are on display at East Rutherford High School.

Kathy Weir, another band student of Mr. Jacobus who attended the convention, is the band director at East Rutherford High School today.

Also attending the ceremony was Jacobus' widow Vernie Jacobus of Forest City; son-in-law Mike Whittemore, grandchildren, Kacey, Amanda and Christopher and great-granddaughter, Gracie; a niece and a sister-in-law of Mr. Jacobus. His other daughter, Jennifer Easler and her family, were not able to attend. Mike Whittemore, also a student of Jacobus, has a career in high school and middle school band programs.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright The Daily Courier

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