I am glad you are honoring Phil. Like many of us, I had the good fortune to be under his direction from 5th grade till I graduated high school. He was the best teacher in any subject I ever had, and I think many of his students would say the same—the dozens of us who became professional musicians largely because of him, and the hundreds of others who went into other professions but never forgot his complete commitment to teaching, his passion, humor, integrity, and artistry. The amount he cared about our achieving excellence in music was only matched by the amount he cared about us as individuals—most of his “free” time was given over to his students, and he remained close friends with many of us until his death. I almost do not know where to start to give you a sense of his devotion to education, to music, and to his students, except to say that I have never seen anything like it since.
Thank you for mentioning his arrangements for kids. About those pieces: first of all, they are still in print 40 years later and used by music educators nation-wide. As the Monterey Jazz Festival’s “Traveling Trumpet Clinician,” I can tell you that for a fact. Also, in this era where we are drowning in “jazz education,” it’s hard to imagine a time when there were no educational jazz materials whatsoever. Maybe high school “stage band” charts, as they were called… But a systematic series of compositions designed for elementary school kids—and directors—with no jazz knowledge? One that went from beginner-level up to high school, teaching about phrasing and improvisation as it went? Nothing like that existed! So he created it—he was a pioneer in that respect, and I don’t feel that he has ever received recognition for that. And the tunes sounded good, and kids enjoyed playing them—still do!
And, in those days most school instructors still looked down on jazz as some kind of inferior street music, and having it in the schools was unthinkable. I think Phil’s charts were one of many things that helped break down that old way of thinking. Having jazz in the schools is certainly not controversial anymore, and I think the BUSD jazz project played its own, not small part in that change.
Don’t know if you found the “Longfellow Elementary School Jazz Band in Reno, 1970” videos I posted to Youtube. They are from an LP made at the Reno Jazz Festival, which at that time was only for high school and college bands. Hardymon was invited to bring this elementary school jazz band for a special performance, to show that it was possible to have jazz in the elementary schools and at a high level. Dr. Wong was also there and spoke. I posted the recording in a series (1–10) of short, sound-only videos on Youtube, and they’re a great testament to what he had already achieved by 1970—and that was just the beginning!
There is one factual error in your piece: he did not leave the district in 1981. Due to a seizure and subsequent brain surgery, he was forced to stop conducting the BHS jazz band in the middle of that year. He never again felt up to the demands of the BHS job, and did not return. However, not too long after the surgery he began teaching concert band at Willard Junior High (and probably other BUSD schools, I can’t remember). He continued this for quite a while, I would say until the late 80s.
Peck Allmond, December 19, 2014