Longtime Clinton High band director Edward W. Taylor, who touched countless lives during his 36-year tenure at the school, will be immortalized with induction into the North Carolina Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame at the end of this year.
Taylor will be inducted during the North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA) conference in Winston-Salem in November. He was nominated for the award by John Lowe, former director of the Clinton High School band and one of Taylor’s students, and approved by members of the N.C. Bandmasters Association, a division of NCMEA, during the annual meeting last November.
“I really appreciate it,” said Taylor. “I feel wonderful, not only for me, but for all those thousands of students who accomplished what they did with me. It’s just unbelievable.”
As a requirement of the Hall of Fame award, the candidate must be a member of NCMEA/MENC (National Association for Music Education) and must have been a band director in the North Carolina public or private schools for a period of at least 10 years.
Taylor’s first job as a high school band director was at Plymouth, where he worked for two years before moving to Clinton in the mid-1950s to become band director here. He served in that capacity from 1956-1991.
“His legacy here for 35 years is pretty impressive,” said Lowe. “He was instrumental in providing a lot of help and mentorship. His advice and long standing relationship with Mr. Bob Buckner allowed me to reestablish the tradition of excellence for the Clinton band program after taking over the reins in 1994.”
The application process for the Hall of Fame award was an extensive one, but Lowe, who was band director for CHS for 14 years and now serves as instructional technology facilitator for Clinton City Schools, said he felt there was not a more deserving individual than Taylor.
“I was astonished because I had no idea he was doing it,” said Taylor. “I didn’t even know I had been nominated until he told me, and then the lady called me and told me I had been approved by the membership. It’s quite an honor for me.”
During his years at Clinton, Taylor took a small-town band and made them competitive against some of the biggest bands from the largest cities in the state. They won titles at the state and national level and participated in some of the most prestigious events.
Taylor’s bands participated in NCMEA events for more than 30 years, with his ensembles receiving 21 Superior ratings at district and state concert band events. Over the years, his bands took home hundreds of first-place awards in competitions across North Carolina and Virginia. Taylor was also one of the first directors in the state to utilize the creative marching band services of Bob Buckner following the 1979 Sylva Webster win at the Marching Bands of America Championship.
During his time with the U.S. Air Force, Taylor was a triple threat himself, serving as drum major for the marching band, playing oboe in concert band, and playing solo alto saxophone in the dance orchestra. After his military career, Taylor enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received a Bachelor of Music Education degree and lettered in baseball.
He continued both loves after school, directing bands and coaching baseball.
Bands under his direction marched in the Lion’s International Parade in New York, Atlanta and New Orleans, and won events at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., the Dogwood Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Va., and the All-American Festival in Orlando, Fla.
Through the years, 14 of his students attended the Governor’s School of North Carolina in instrumental music. Many have been members of college bands and choruses, as well as Marine Military Bands and the National Drum and Bugle Corps.
In addition to his active role with CHS band activities, Taylor also coached Little League baseball and football in the area for 15 years, working with hundreds of young boys, including his three sons, Jeffery, Barry and Edward. Taylor would teach band in the mornings, coach boys baseball in the afternoons and church softball at night during his early years in Clinton. The weekends were filled with playing and coaching fast-pitch softball and directing the choir at Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church.
At the time of his retirement, Clinton officials gave Taylor the key to the city in recognition of his many years of devoted service, the highest honor the city can give to a citizen.
At 82 years old, Taylor lives in Raleigh with wife Mable and still plays the alto saxophone, mainly for special occasions and at church. Recently he teamed with one of his first students in Clinton, Larry Cotton, to make recordings of songs from the Big Band era and numbers performed by his beloved band students.
“Being 82 years old, this might be the last honor,” he said, poking fun at his getting older. “I’d rather get this award when I’m living than when I get it posthumously.”
Lowe said it gives him great pride to recognize a man who has played a huge role in his life, and the lives of others.
“More important than the band’s appearances and accomplishments is the impact Mr. Taylor had on the lives of the young people in his bands,” Lowe stated in his nomination form. “His own demand for excellence and strong commitment to working hard until the job was not only completed, but also completed perfectly, has impacted generations of former students. Clinton High band members may or may not remember the music they played under Mr. Taylor’s tutelage, but they still apply the principles learned from him in their work and everyday lives.”
Taylor said he has been thrilled in recent years to reconnect with students by email and through Facebook, where students have shared their fond memories and gratitude about the band leader. “I’m real proud of the fact that I’m hearing from students. I’m hearing from students all over the world, from Wiesbaden, Germany to Alaska.”
Those wishing to see the indelible mark Taylor left on his students need to look no further than Taylor’s Facebook page, Lowe said.
“There are so many stories of how many people he impacted,” said Lowe. “It’s amazing to see,” said Lowe. “He’s just served in that mentorship role for so long, and I know he’s done that with other band directors in the area. He continued to serve as a mentor to many band directors in southeastern and central North Carolina after his retirement in 1991.”
Lowe would know. He was one of them. So was Hobbton High School band director Geoffrey Tart. Both men shared how much Taylor deserved the Hall of Fame honor during their time speaking with N.C. Bandmasters representatives.
“I am, like many others, indebted to him for helping me to become a better band director, teacher and person,” stated Lowe. “Mr. Edward W. Taylor is truly deserving of inclusion in our state Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame.”
Taken from The Sampson Independent, Article by Chris Berendt