Wiregrass band directors remember former Troy band director Dr. Johnny Long

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TROY, Ala. (WTVY) - When you go to a Troy football game, you're bound to hear the Trojan Fight Song.

(Source: TROY University)

That song is just one of the many contributions of Dr. Johnny Long, who started the Sound of the South Marching Band.

Long passed away Monday night at the age of 94 and people around the Wiregrass had him on their minds Tuesday.

Wicksburg High School Band Director Lori Hart started rehearsal the same way she does every day, by warming up with "Letter I".

A piece that has always held a sentimental value for Hart.

"Letter I was the famous warm-up we used every day at Troy, and I continue to use that in my band classes today,” said Hart.

But Letter I sounded just a little different to Hart at this particular rehearsal,

She had just finished telling her students that her former Troy University Director and life-long friend Johnny Long had passed away.

"You could just tell that they played it with more conviction, more, love,” said Hart.

Hart grew up in Tuscaloosa, where family and friends always assumed she would attend the University of Alabama.

But Dr. Long, and the band he created at Troy, the Sound of the South, convinced her otherwise.

"I'd had a band director in 10th grade that had given me an album of the Troy University band, and it changed my life,” said Hart.

Hart studied under long in the late 70's, where the legendary band director took her to things like the College Band Directors National Convention and the American Band Masters Convention.

Her experience under Long made her want to follow in his footsteps and become a band director herself.

"He always said this, 'You spell band f-u-n.' That's one of the things that we continue to talk about is having band being fun,” said Hart.

Lori isn't the only one that long influenced into becoming a band instructor.

Steve McLendon taught band at Dothan High for 28 1/2 years.

"I think we're all just one little branch off of him, the tree,” said McLendon. “We all took the pieces that work for us and generation after generation it's just continued. My son's a band director, been teaching 18 years now."

Up at Troy University, the music building is named after Long, and the current Band Director Dr. Mark Walker won't be forgetting him anytime soon.

"He just wrote this piece, this 'fanfare' in about 45 minutes one day,” said Walker. “They had no intention of it sticking. It was just a one-off thing. We play it at the beginning of every halftime show. We play it at the 4th quarter, and we've been playing it since 1965."

While Walker thinks of Long every time the band plays fanfare, Hart will continue to remember him every time she hears the first note of 'Letter I'.

"How wonderful he was as a person and as a teacher, a person, a mentor, but I was lucky enough to be able to call him my friend,” said Hart.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced for Dr. Long.
But when they are, WTVY will post it on wtvy.com.

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