NASPAAM Tribute for our Immediate Past President, Dr. Jesse McCarroll

 

Dr Jesss McCarrollJesse McCarroll
A Few Thoughts about a Proud Music Educator and NASPAAM Leader

Like all who knew Jesse, we, too, were shocked and deeply saddened to learn that he had
just died. It seemed impossible and a bit surreal, because Jesse was present at the Jazz
Education Network Conference last week in Louisville and interacted with two
NASPAAM board members, who recalled that Jesse seemed as lively as ever. Word of his
death spread quickly, and words of love and condolence came from voices all around the
world.

Jesse McCarroll, who was born in Dayton, Alabama and grew up in Hattiesburg,
Mississippi, in reality seemed to be a citizen of the world. He was constantly traveling in
behalf of music and music education sharing his vast knowledge and advocacy for the
teaching/learning and performance of music in the schools and in the society. His travels
took him to Africa, Europe, and Asia in addition to the Americas and all over the United
States.

He made friends everywhere he went, so it should be no surprise to those of us who knew
him that he would be remembered fondly. It is abundantly clear that many persons were
touched by Jesse’s remarkable ability to make friends in every corner of the world. A
person from Beijing, China wrote that he had just spoken with Jesse recently during the
Christmas season. I remember Jesse introducing his close friends from Russia to a few
attendees at the International Association for Jazz Education Conference in New York
City around the year 2000; his Russian friends were members of a saxophone quartet
invited to perform at the IAJE Conference, whom Jesse had met previously in Russia.
When Jesse was awarded the NASPAAM Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 at the
Houston Conference, an advertisement in the Houston Awards Booklet stated the
following: “Your extended Greek Family, in NYC, Greece, Cyprus, and the Greek Isles,
will forever be grateful for your friendship and encouragement.”

Jesse made several trips to Africa over his lifetime, and it is believed that his membership
in a musical quartet that toured eight African countries, as a part of Operation
Crossroads Africa, probably contributed significantly to his love of African music and
culture. Established by Dr. James H. Robinson, an African American minister, Operation
Crossroads Africa is a U.S.-based, private voluntary organization that sponsors cross cultural exchanges and small-scale service projects in Africa, Caribbean Countries, and Brazil. In establishing the Peace Corps, President Kennedy modeled many ideas from
Crossroads. It is likely that the Crossroads tour that Jesse took helped to establish his lifelong interest in developing musical contacts in Africa.

After learning of his death, one person who described him spoke of his uniqueness and
how he “looked for the good in others.” Another person wrote that “Jesse was a caring
person and made you feel that you were an important part of his life and he wanted to
share with you something inspiring, creative and in his words absolutely amazing.” Other
expressions revealed the following thoughts about him: “People were fortunate to have
their lives enriched by his friendship, his kindness and the gentleness of his soul.”
“…Such a refined, intelligent, and spiritual gentleman.” A Past President of the National
Black Music Caucus (NBMC) recalled that Jesse was always an active and highly vocal
member of the Board of Directors, but she remembered mostly his big heart and his ever-present smile.

The current NASPAAM President, Dr. Marsha Kindall-Smith remembered that she first
met Jesse in the 1970s at MENC meetings that they both attended. She recalled that Jesse
was always smiling, friendly, and introducing her to people; it was Jesse who
accompanied her to her first NBMC meeting in the late ‘70s. Marsha also shared that
Jesse’s hospitality and steady support for music causes were evident when she invited
him to a reception at Carnegie Hall after a concert there by the Milwaukee Symphony
Orchestra, where she was a member of the Board of Directors, and “Jesse charmed the
Milwaukee Board and friends.” She also recalled that she enjoyed dancing with Jesse at
an International Association of Jazz Educators Conference party and that “Jesse was a good dancer.” Jesse’s hospitality and friendship was extended to others as well. When a nephew of a Past President played violin at Carnegie Hall, Jesse was there to lend his support, and when another nephew got a job in NYC, he briefly stayed with Jesse.

Jesse also was an inspirational and positive force in the lives of many who knew him; this
sentiment was expressed by several persons upon hearing that Jesse had passed. One
person, who enrolled in a music class taught by Jesse at New York City College in the
mid-1970s, noted that he was “one of the most important people in my life.” The student
wrote that he took the music class on a whim, and shared the following statement: “From
the first minute I knew I was in the presence of a true force of nature: smart, funny,
brilliant and wholly unafraid to speak his mind and to speak it eloquently. And a terrific
and powerful musician to boot.” Those of us who knew Jesse can easily agree with the
aforementioned statement.

Less we forget, Jesse McCarroll was a serious student of music who was highly educated.
As a classically trained pianist, he had studied this instrument with several important
teachers including Friedrich Wuhrer at the Mannheim School of Music in Germany;
Eugene Mancini and Marianne Matousek Mastics at the Cleveland Institute of Music,
where he received the Bachelor of Music degree in Piano; and Thomas Richner and
Martin Canin in New York City, where he received the Master of Arts and Doctor of
Education degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Dr. Jesse McCarroll, teacher-scholar-author, enjoyed an outstanding career as a music
educator, who shared his love and knowledge of music, and of African American Music
in particular, with the legion of students whom he taught and the public audiences whom
he engaged. For over 30 years he led a distinguished career and retired as Professor
Emeritus of Music at New York City College of Technology. He was the recipient of
numerous awards that acknowledged his leadership in the field of Music Education and
in African American Music. A few of his awards include the 2013 Lifetime Achievement
Award of the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE); Educator of the
Year from the Association of Black Educators of New York; CUNY Scholar by The City
University of New York; and the Performance Excellence Award and Scholar on Campus
from the NYC College of Technology.

His influence and reach are revealed in the area of service where Dr. McCarroll served as
a national representative of the United States and senior advisor to the Pan African
Society of Musical Arts Education. Additionally he was chair for two consecutive terms
of the Multicultural Awareness Commission of the New York State School Music
Association.

The National Black Music Caucus (NBMC), now known as the National Association for
the Study and Performance of African American Music (NASPAAM), benefitted greatly
from Jesse’s presence and leadership. He served NBMC/NASPAAM as a faithful,
dedicated member and later member of the Board of Directors, where he served in
several capacities as President-Elect, President, and Vice President. Additionally he was
the Conference Chair of the 2013 NASPAAM Professional Conference held in
Birmingham, Alabama; his leadership of that conference led to him receiving the
NASPAAM Oustanding Service Award. Board members have spoken always of Jesse’s
sense of humor and his candor that often made us smile and laugh. He always found a
“nice thing” to say about everybody. Board members liked and loved him, and he always
“spoke his mind,” and rarely, if ever, shied away from sharing his thoughts and feelings
about any agenda topic.

Jesse was quite a socialite and loved to attend and throw a party. NASPAAM board
members were the recipients of Jesse’s good nature and spirit. He was our Ambassador of
New York and welcomed us to New York City, and was always ready to take us around
town. We are grateful for his love and passion for African American music and his visible
support of African American artists of all ages. We benefited from his forwarded emails
from the New York Times of all kinds of articles that dealt with musical-social cultural-political topics, obituaries/death notices, and other matters that he believed of interest and relevance to the black community; in short, if Jesse thought that you should know about an important event, he was going to share it with you.

The NASPAAM family is proud of Dr. Jesse McCarroll—our brother, friend, comrade,
music educator, strong arts advocate, and passionate voice for African American music.
Jesse, we love you and we thank you for what you have given to us.

Jesse McCarroll will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

Sincerely and in behalf of the NASPAAM Board of Directors,

Dr. Ted McDaniel
A Founder, NBMC
NBMC Past President, NASPAAM Past Executive Secretary
January 15, 2016