Remembering Mr. Downs


Last night, Thursday, February 8th, the Terra Nova High School Symphonic Band along with the Vallemar/Cabrillo Band and Ingrid B. Lacy/Ocean Shore Wind Symphony performed magnificently at the All-City Concert in honor of Mr. Jerry Downs. As many of you know, Mr. Downs passed away last September, and his presence, in our school district and community, has been sorely missed. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have been very pleased with the performances of his students and many of his former students in the Terra Nova Band.

Ms. Samantha Johns directed the Vallemar/Cabrillo Band in two magical pieces: “Zia” and “Celtic Air and Dance”. Mr. Benjamin Gower directed the IBL/OSS Wind Symphony in the delightful, yet melancholic “Nottingham Sketches”. And Mr. Brian Lewsadder brilliantly directed the TN Symphonic Band in their two pieces: “Encanto” and “Galop”.

Peppered through the performances, many folks gave heartfelt eulogies to Mr. Downs. Jared Steele remembered his first encounter with Mr. Downs: “You play the clarinet? You’re in the Marching Band.” Jessica Hidalgo remembered how he motivated his students to extend themselves. TN Senior Isaac Lipsky commented that Mr. Downs was the glue that held the band together. Band parents Carolyn Lee and Crystal Pepin both spoke on his dedication and commitment to the students. Crystal also read messages from a couple of Mr. Downs’ SoCal students. Travis, a professional drummer, said “he (Mr. Downs) didn’t get paid extra, he did it because he loved us.” Old friends, Grace Wolfert and Jennifer Samujh, told stories from the days before his work in Northern California.

Four pieces of music were wonderfully played by all three bands. “Washington Post March” reminded me of my childhood summers at the Russian River when my dad would play endlessly all the Sousa marches. They followed this with the powerful “Incantation and Ritual” and the delightful “The Tempest”.  Finally, and very appropriately, Principal Thomas Stafford directed all the bands in a sublime version of “Abide With Me”, a particular favorite of Mr. Downs.

I hope Mr. Downs was pleased with the stellar performances of all the students. His legacy, like the lowly daffodil, will not only continue to blossom beautifully, but will  reproduce prolifically. The three young music teachers who directed marvelously tonight certainly have big shoes to fill, but from tonight’s skillful execution, they are well on their way to adding to Mr. Downs’ prolific heritage.


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