August 2023 Alumni Spotlights: Jamey Aebersold (NAHS ’57) & Doug Elmore (FCHS faculty 1986-present)

August 2023 Alumni Spotlights: Jamey Aebersold (NAHS ’57) & Doug Elmore (FCHS faculty 1986-present)

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We may often say, “That’s music to my ears!” Yet, we don’t often give enough credit to those who make the music happen. We might not realize that Floyd Central High School’s orchestra is a winning powerhouse, with a fantastic reputation throughout the state. That orchestra is conducted by FCHS teacher Doug Elmore. We also might not realize that one of the most important jazz music educators in the world lives in New Albany. That world-renowned jazz musician is NAHS graduate Jamey Aebersold.

Doug and Jamey not only make beautiful music in their own spheres, but they occasionally make joyous noise together. Jamey hosts informal jam sessions at his house at least once a week. Guess who was there recently? Doug. It seemed appropriate to profile these two together. What stood out most to me was not only their love of music, but also their passion for helping others and their commitment to the community.

Introduction and profiles contributed by Kelly Watkins, FCHS ’84

Doug Elmore always knew he wanted to be a high school orchestra director. Yet in 1986, his first year at FCHS, he only had 22 students in orchestra. Doug said, “If anyone had told me then that the Floyd Central Orchestra would achieve so much, I would have laughed out loud. It seemed impossible.”

Today, Doug teaches approximately 450 string players – at FCHS and Highland Hills Middle School. As the orchestra program grew, Doug credits previous FCHS Assistant Principal John Marsh with the support. John would ask Doug, “What can I do to help?”

In 1995, the Floyd Central Orchestra won the ISSMA state championship (the premier award for Indiana high school orchestras). The larger schools in central and northern Indiana never thought a school from southern Indiana could do that. FCHS was the smallest school at the finals competition (with the next largest school having 1,000 more students) … from the smallest county in Indiana. The state title wasn’t a fluke. FCHS won the title two more times, with the most recent award this year.

Those other schools in Indiana had no choice but to give Doug Elmore’s Floyd Central Orchestra the respect they deserve. In fact, FCHS has qualified for the ISSMA state finals for 33 years in a row … and that’s more than any other school in Indiana.

Doug’s students continue to impress him. Even five minutes before the state competition, they were still working to make the music beautiful. Doug said during a rehearsal this year, he was so proud of the students that he wanted to sneak into his office and cry. Doug wholeheartedly believes that with the skills and discipline these students have learned, “They will go make a difference in the world.” Doug isn’t simply making beautiful music, he’s building character.

Doug’s journey to develop character doesn’t end with just his orchestra students. Doug wanted to make history come alive through music for the entire Junior class. So, 25 years ago he created one of his most meaningful programs at FCHS, the Holocaust Memorial Assembly. The program featured music written by a Jewish concentration camp internee and was performed by the FCHS orchestra. There was also a Holocaust survivor as a guest speaker. The entire Junior class still attends this program every March.

Doug’s commitment to students doesn’t end at FCHS. He has served as Music Director of the Floyd County Youth Symphony for 24 years. In addition, Doug is currently Music Director for the prestigious Louisville Youth Orchestra.

Doug has been teaching and conducting for a long time. He said, “As long as the students keep saying yes and giving their all, I’ll keep doing the work.”

Doug’s wife (April) is retired from teaching at Highland Hills, and all three of their children (Ian, Megan, and Claire) graduated from FCHS.

Jamey Aebersold might not be famous in his hometown of New Albany, where he has lived his entire life. However, he is famous everywhere else in the world – at the least in the jazz world.

More than one person has said, “Jamey is the most important jazz educator on earth.” Another added, “Jamey has influenced more jazz players than all the universities in the world combined.”

In 1967, Jamey was playing his saxophone and thought, “wouldn’t it be a great if people who were practicing jazz had something to practice with, like a piano or other instruments.” So, he decided to make an LP record (because that was the only option in 1967) and also to write a short book to aid musicians in developing their jazz improvisational skills. That was the first of what has become 133 volumes of Jazz Play-A-Longs.

The book and record sets have evolved into CDs and downloads that provide accompaniments from the world’s top jazz musicians. Jamey says he has probably shipped his materials to every country in the world.

Jamey’s list of awards would fill pages, including an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Indiana University. He earned his Master’s Degree in Saxophone from IU in 1962. Jamey was also inducted into the Jazz Educators Hall of Fame, along with Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.

Of all Jamey’s awards, the one that meant the most was receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the highest honor in jazz. The award included a trip to the Lincoln Center and a large cash prize. Yet, Jamey most appreciated … the t-shirt. Why? Because he likes to wear the shirt when he gives free performances at schools. It motivates the youth and shows them what they can accomplish.

In fact, despite all the accolades, Jamey says the most rewarding part of his career is philanthropy. Because of his accomplishments, he is able to give back in so many ways. For example, he provides free concerts to the public, but he personally pays the other musicians who play with him. For decades, Jamey has traveled to local schools and public venues and shared his love of music. He enjoys helping young musicians learn to play.

For over 40 years, Jamey has been the director of Summer Jazz Workshops. These are held locally and around the world. These week-long workshops are open to everyone, regardless of age or ability, as long as they are serious about jazz.

Jamey loves the opportunity to impact musicians – to change their thinking or change their life. It is priceless to be able to help someone or make a difference. He says, “Hopefully, my enthusiasm has encouraged people to play music, just for the fun of it, in their basement or garage or wherever.”

Jamey says he still has ideas, and he is still using his imagination. And, that means he will continue bringing music to his community and to the world.

Jamey is married to Sara Ann. Their son, Jamey Dwayne Aebersold, graduated from NAHS in 1983.

Read the complete August 2023 Legacy Ledger

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