Former Elmore County band director passes away

Published 9:05am Monday, March 10, 2014

Local musical icon Truman Welch died Thursday afternoon at the age of  94.

Welch, a Wetumpka native, is perhaps remembered best by county residents for his role as founding director of the Elmore County Band – “Big Blue” – and as a former mayor of the City of Wetumpka.

During World War II, Welch was director of the 13th Air Force Show Band. For a brief time after the war, Welch drove a truck for his father-in-law, played in several local bands and taught music to a few students.

He was later approached by a member of the Elmore County Board of Education about starting a high school band in the county and agreed to give it a try.

That idea led to the establishment in 1946 of a combined Wetumpka High and Elmore County High band. Under the leadership of Welch the band blossomed from its original seven students into a nationally-recognized group.

In the 26 years of his directorship, the band consistently received superior ratings at state competition, was first-place winner at the Virginia Beach Festival and was selected to play at various events in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Jekyl Island, Ga., and other locations.

In 1967 he received the Birmingham News Post- Herald Award for 25 years of outstanding service to the youth of Alabama.

In 1970 he was awarded the Order of the Silver Horn by the First Chair of America for outstanding achievement in the field of school music. The Silver Horn is awarded only to those whose accomplishments in the field of music are of the highest national standards.

Welch retired as director of the Elmore County Band in 1972. His other musical accomplishments included teaching woodwinds at Auburn University and the University of Alabama music camps and teaching music at Troy University, Auburn University and Huntingdon College.

He played professionally for many years in symphony and dance bands and was a member of the board of directors of the Montgomery Symphony for several years. For more than a decade he was director of the Capitol Sounds Concert Band in Montgomery.

Welch partnered in originating and organizing the studio lab band movement. In addition he organized the first Southeastern United States Concert Band Clinic held at Troy University in January 1974.

He was inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Bandmasters Hall of Fame in 1978 and into the inaugural class of the Alabama Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

Over the course of his career, Welch served as both president and vice president of the Alabama Bandmasters Association, president and vice president of the Alabama Music Educators Association and one term on the governing board of the National Band Association.  He also served as president of the Alabama Chapter of Phi Beta Mu.

His professional memberships included Phi Beta Mu, National Band Association, American School Band Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, College Band Directors National Association and the Alabama Music Educators Association.

Later in life Welch was a flute clinician for Yamaha Musical Instrument Company throughout the Southeast and was in demand as a guest conductor and clinician throughout the country.

He was honored by the Alabama Legislature with a resolution in 2003 when a musical scholarship was established in his name.

Welch was elected as Wetumpka’s mayor in July 1980 and served a 4-year term.

Funeral services will be held Monday with visitation at Gassett Funeral Home Chapel from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. A graveside service will follow at the Wetumpka City Cemetery at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions are requested to the Truman Welch Scholarship Fund at the Elmore County Community Foundation.

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