By Hannah Mwaura
After 40 years of directing community bands and teaching music at University of Findlay, Jack Taylor, professor of music, plans to retire after Findlay Civic Band’s summer 2020 performances.
Taylor arrived at the University in 1980, after the college eliminated the music major. Some administrators sought to salvage the element of music appreciation and education for the Findlay experience, which is what led to Taylor’s hire. As a jazz musician with plenty of performance experience, it was believed that Taylor could help turn the tide by organizing a
jazz combo comprised of about five musicians. He had his work cut out for him: only seven students were enrolled in band, one of them strictly as a cymbal player. Over the years, Taylor expanded Findlay’s music program to include the marching band, orchestra, symphonic band, and wind ensemble. Today’s music program enrollment is approximately 150 students.
After the Findlay Civic Band’s summer performance, Taylor intends to take at least a year-long break from direct music involvement. Meanwhile, he plans to visit with family, from grandchildren to his parents, and help them in various ways.
Taylor reflected on his time at Findlay:
What is special about the University of Findlay?
The University of Findlay was my first “small college” experience. I went to high school and took my music degrees at two larger institutions and never before experienced the wonderful feeling of closeness and “family” that I came to know in Findlay. Add that to the joy of getting to know how kind and warm people in the Midwest could be (I come from a suburb of Philadelphia where folks are a bit more coarse), we soon realized that Findlay would be the perfect place to raise our children and spend our lives.
What will you miss the most about being Findlay’s band director?
No question – I’ll miss the relationships. “Family” has been central to my work at the University and in the community. We’ve cultivated that relationship with University of Findlay students even more so as of late since our own three sons have married, moved away, and are busy now with their own families. But we’ve also adopted a “family” of community musicians in Findlay and Northwest Ohio. I’ve worked with some of those folks for well over 30 years.
What kind of impact did Findlay have on your life?
I keep coming back to “family” but that’s been everything for us. Pat and I came to Findlay fresh out of grad school at Yale. We were 25 years old, married for only four years and pushing a six-month old baby in a stroller. Findlay College gave me my first experience as a college professor. Colleagues at Findlay College made us instantly feel at home. We were alone in Ohio with no friends or family and the people in the Findlay community welcomed us. We came to learn of the value of friends and colleagues with no other of our family members in the area.
What impact do you hope you had on the lives of Findlay students?
I hope my students have taken away the love and passion for music that I’ve felt since I was a kid. I hope they have developed a feeling of self-confidence as a result of their experience in my bands that will help them to reach for the stars in their careers. I hope that I’ve helped them learn some important lessons about commitment, teamwork, and responsibility.
How do you think your work as band director and the music program helped students have meaningful lives and productive careers?
You’d have to ask them about that but I can’t imagine anyone’s life being meaningful without the gift of music. As for productive careers – I have to trust that my colleagues have prepared them for that – we’ve had no music majors during my time in Findlay – so we’ve not prepared career musicians. We HAVE, however, prepared a LOT of people who are going to find other walks of life. Those same people will likely be active in their communities as volunteer or semi-professional musicians.