Beloved director departs at age 65
Community tributes poured in for esteemed trumpeter, mentor and longtime band director Don Reynolds. He died March 26 at the age of 65.
Wife Kay Reynolds announced his passing on Facebook. The couple shared a 42-year marriage, three children and six grandchildren.
She wrote, “My one and only love of life has passed on to glory at 5:20 this afternoon. Don is now playing trumpet for his Lord. Please pray for our family at this time of bereavement. We love each of you for your love, support, prayers and thoughtfulness to each of us. We love each of you very much.”
Reynolds served the Nassau County School District from 1975 to 2010. He was the band director at Callahan Middle School for more than a decade before leading the West Nassau High School Warrior Band for 23 years.
WNHS posted a tribute to Reynolds on its Facebook.
“Friday nights in a small town during the months of August, September and October are filled with the familiar sounds of cheering fans, cheerleaders, football announcers and the booming sounds of the marching band. These sounds evoke a feeling of hometown pride in Callahan and Warrior Nation. Tonight, Warrior Nation mourns the loss of one of our local heroes, who was a major contributor to those familiar Friday night sounds for almost four decades. Mr. Don Reynolds was a beloved teacher, mentor, friend and colleague at West Nassau High School. He truly put the pride in the ‘Pride of the First Coast’ marching band. His legacy and positive impact will be felt in this community for generations to come. The faculty and staff of West Nassau High School would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to Mr. Reynolds’ family.”
Dozens of people and former students, shared their memories of Reynolds and his impact on their lives, including Melissa Zander Chambliss.
She posted, “My favorite memory has to be when I was going into ninth grade and Mr. Reynolds talked me into staying in band when I wanted to quit. I’m an elementary music teacher now and I certainly wouldn’t be if not for Mr. Reynolds. His humor, kindness and talent will be missed and never forgotten. He was so special. I’m just heartbroken.”
Reynolds began playing coronet at 11 years of age at Stillwell Junior High School and also played trumpet. He was a graduate of Paxon High School. He also attended Jacksonville University and later served as an adjunct professor.
Reynolds played for the Jacksonville Symphony in the 1970s for three years. He also performed with the First Coast Wind Ensemble and other auditioned groups throughout his lifetime. After retirement, he taught for a year at The Lavilla School of Arts and conducted private music lessons.
A few years ago, Reynolds was interviewed for a Florida Band Association Legacy Project, honoring the expertise of retired band directors. During the video recorded interview, he provided insight into his personal and professional life and offered ways to teach students how to improve musical performance.
“I think the most important issue, um, for any band program is to understand what is a quality sound, what is a world-class sound,” Reynolds said. “… And to try to find ways of hearing that, whether we attend other concerts – get everybody together for a field trip to go hear the Jacksonville Symphony to perform or whatever. That understanding of what it takes to have a good, characteristic tone on every instrument is important for the success of your program.”
He continued, “And you as a band director – I as a band director, need to do this as often as we possibly can to keep in touch with reality, because you sit in your own band room every day and you hear that. After a while, you start to accept some things that are really not acceptable. And you … you are satisfied with mediocrity. I think we really need to fight that all the time.”
CMS Band Director Paul Arnold took over Reynolds’ post in 1987. The two shared a lasting friendship.
“Mr. Reynolds was a one-of-a-kind man,” Arnold wrote. “He was gentle, caring, demanding, witty and extremely intelligent. He had a way that made everyone want to be better, not only as a musician, but also as a person. I owe much of my success as a band director to his mentorship and guidance. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t say or do something that he shared with me. He was assigned to mentor me during the beginning teacher program in 1987 and continued to be a guiding influence throughout my entire career. Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer and had to miss several weeks due to treatment, he volunteered to come direct the band to ensure they were ready to compete in Pennsylvania upon my return – the band won first place.”
Arnold fondly recalled Reynolds’ sense of humor.
“I will miss his jokes, his infectious laugh, his love of music – but mostly his friendship,” he noted. “I think I speak for all who knew him in saying, ‘We love you and miss you, Mr. Reynolds.’”
WNHS Band Director Jason Eason played trumpet under the direction of both men. He posted his recollections of Reynolds, writing, “Thank you, sir. I would certainly never be where I am now without you. I quote you daily in our band room. I will work hard every day to continue to lead this band in a manner that you would appreciate. I will do my best to instill a lifelong love of music to all my students.”
He continued, “I will do my best to remember that the kids forget faster than we do. I will demand the best from them so they know they can. I will tell the TP joke. I will always lie to my students and tell them the lady at Hardee’s said, ‘Sorry about your wait (weight).’ I hear you in my tone and for that I will be forever grateful and in your debt. Even more than the trumpet, you taught me that with consistent effort you can do most anything in time. Thank you, sir.”
Mary Ann Salis taught general music and after-school groups in chorus and masters mallet at Callahan Intermediate School from 1985 to 2015. She also taught an after-school chorus group at CMS.
“Our loss is heaven’s gain,” Salis posted on Facebook March 27. “God has a wonderful new trumpet player for the band in heaven. Don Reynolds was the most talented musician and a fantastic band director. It was my great honor to have worked with him and taught music at CIS to his children. Prayers go up for his family for comfort and healing.”
His teaching was a component to the total building of a music program for kindergarten through 12th grade students in western Nassau, according to Salis.
“He did that fine tuning of musical production so that students could interpret the piece of music as art,” Salis said. “He was the best. The students that came through his program turned out to be band directors, teachers and professional musicians. It was an honor to have worked with him to educate Nassau County students.”