Department of Music

John Howell: In Memoriam

John Raymond Howell, 77, of Blacksburg, an educator, musician, entertainer, husband, and father, passed away on Friday, May 3, 2013. Born April 17, 1936 in Everett, Washington to the late Raymond and Florence Howell, he was preceded in death by his wife, Susan Taylor Howell. He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Heather Howell and Rodolfo Long; son and daughter-in-law, Ian Howell and Virginia Pierce; daughter, Christena Howell and grandson, Samundra Pandey; and son and daughter-in-law, Rémi and Amoreena Howell and grandchildren Liam and Amaya Howell.

John was a force of nature in the Blacksburg arts community since joining the Virginia Tech music faculty in 1979. He directed "The New Virginians" from 1979-93, entertaining countless thousands while instilling in his students a sense of professionalism and the importance of community. In 1996, John founded the Virginia Tech Early Music Ensemble, which he directed until 2012. He was a prominent member of the Blacksburg Community Band, Community Strings, and the Summer Musical Enterprise, and constantly worked to write new compositions and arrangements, organize parts, or fill in on whatever instrument happened to be missing for any given concert.

As a professional entertainer and music arranger with The Four Saints barbershop quartet, he performed on five continents and in all 50 states, appearing on the major TV variety shows of the 1960s. In the 1970s, he was the director of the All-American College Singers at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and of the Aspen Pro Arte at the Aspen Music Festival. As a faculty member of the Indiana University School of Music, he conducted the Belles of Indiana and the Pro Arte Consort. An Associate Professor of Music at Virginia Tech, he directed numerous ensembles, including The New Virginians, the Studio Singers, the John Howell Singers, the Early Music Ensemble, and the Choral Union. His legacy can be seen in the scores of former students active in the commercial and early music fields, and his greatest joy came from turning them loose into the world. Published works include a book on the life and teaching of string educator George Bornoff, articles in the String Education Quarterly, the Orff Echo, the Kodály Envoy, and VMEA Notes, and choral arrangements that have sold over 20,000 copies worldwide.

A memorial gathering and reception will be held at 6 pm on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, 701 Church St. SE. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in John's name to the Blacksburg Summer Musical Enterprise.

John Howell