Three eras of Jackson band directors

Pictured are three eras of Jackson Band Directors. The late Richard “Dick” Berry, pictured far right, is shown with former Jackson Band Director Aaron Rex (far left), and current Jackson Band Director Ryan Hurd (center). The photo was taken this summer.

Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 16 newspaper on Page A6.

Richard Allen Berry, age, 71, passed away on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, MD, surrounded by family and medical staff, following an automobile accident in the Baltimore area.

“I am very sad to hear of (Richard) Dick Berry’s passing,” Aaron Rex shared on social media. Rex was the Jackson Director of Bands from 2012 through 2018. He now serves as a band director in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District.

“Dick was the band director at Jackson for many years before my tenure,” explained Rex. “He was always incredibly supportive of me and the program well after his retirement.”

Rex added, “The legacy he left at Jackson will never be forgotten.”

Current Jackson Band Director Ryan Hurd honored Berry at the 2019 Jackson Apple Festival Band Show and in the Saturday evening Apple Festival parade, by every band student wearing a ribbon in his memory.

At a very young age, Berry was hit with asthma and the doctor recommended he learn to play the trumpet, which started his love for music.

In 1966, he graduated from Mansfield Sr. High School, where he was involved in all bands and orchestras. His band director was the late Percy Hall, and his parents had already started taking him for lessons at The Ohio State University with Richard Suddendorf.

Making the university’s marching band, under the direction of the late Dr. Charles Spohn, locked him into being a teacher. There he studied conducting with the late Dr. Donald McGinnis, and Berry was a member of his concert band. While in the marching band he was fortunate enough to see the Buckeyes win a Rose Bowl in 1969. That same year, he marched in the inaugural parade for former President Richard Nixon.

Before graduation from Ohio State, he met and fell in love with a clarinet player, Jan, whom he married on June 6, 1969.

Berry started teaching at Fredericktown H.S. in 1970. The band became so large that it caused a scheduling issue. Here he had the chance to really try everything he learned at Ohio State. His students competed at contests on all levels. While here, Berry started his MA work at OSU and finished in 1975.

It was very hard to leave his home on Knox Lake because he loved to fish, but “The Music Man” moved on to Orange H.S. in Pepper Pike, Ohio, in 1974. Here he built this program back up and taught strings, string orchestra, jazz band. He had superior ratings for his concert bands, ensembles and soloist.

In 1978, Berry took his family to Niles H.S. to be the supervisor of music. A year later, Lawrenceburg H.S. in Indiana had his living along the Ohio River.

An opening at Jeffersonville H.S., located across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, caused him to move to this very large high school in 1982.

At Jeffersonville, he would once again take a small program and built it up to be the talk of the area. Here he had a full string orchestra, music theory classes, two bands and conducted pit orchestras for the spring musicals, including a world premiere of “Fame!”

After his oldest son, Ed, chose Ohio State to major in music and join the marching band on trombone, the family moved to Jackson, Ohio, in 1989, which was just 1.5 hours from campus.

Here, Berry felt like he was home.

In every school system, he dearly loved his students, but there was something about the hills in southeastern Ohio which reminded him of Mansfield.

He started with around 25 students for the marching band that fall, and it grew as former students quickly came back. In Jackson, it did not take long before the size of the band became the biggest and arguably one of the best in the area.

He was always humbled by the community support which came whenever the band needed more uniforms, more or new equipment, rain coasts, food, support for trips to Disney World, to Chicago parades, to the Kentucky Derby or to Athens to play during an Ohio University game, and the list goes on and on.

Here Berry stayed in Jackson for 16 years until he retired in 2005 to move to the Columbus area.

Berry is survived by his wife of 50 years, Janet L. (McClure) Berry; sons, Edgar Allen Berry (Peg) and James William Berry (Casey); as well as grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Berry’s last teaching position, which was at Jackson High School, on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. in the gymnasium, with family receiving friends immediately prior from 2-4 p.m.

The service will be officiated by Associate Pastor, Janie Karl, from Christ United Methodist Church and directed by the Lewis & Gillum Funeral Home of Jackson.

The school is located at 500 Vaughn Street in Jackson.

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