J Merton Holcombe
Class of 0
J. Merton Holcombe is well deserving of recognition as one of the pioneer school band directors in the state of Ohio. He organized the second high school band in the state of Ohio—the Mansfield High School Band, which was begun in 1922 under his leadership. He had been hired that year to be the director of glee clubs, his first teaching position. His first "band" consisted of only eight members, four of which were drummers!
Under Holcombe's enthusiastic leadership, the membership of the band increased to 42 members one year later, in 1923, and by 1924 numbered 75. It was during this yea rthat the first state band contest was held at Fostoria with the Mansfield Band participating.
His formal education in music began at the Paulisch School of Music in Boston, and continued at the T.V. Short Conservatory in Springfield and the Virtuoso School of Music. (His formal education was not completed until 1936 at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, long after his teaching career had begun.)
He accepted a teaching position at Milligan College in Tennessee, at which he organized a band. After teaching there only one year, he was engaged to organize a band for the political campaign of former President Warren G. Harding, which led him to Marion, Ohio.
It was at this time, in the fall of 1921, that he was hired by the Mansfield City Schools to direct the glee clubs and orchestra. During that school year he organized the first high school band (the second to be organized in the state of Ohio), which rapidly grew in size and quality, winning the state band contest in Columbus in 1926. As a result of this high achievement the band was invited to perform during the half-time of the Ohio State vs. Wisconsin football game, sharing the half-time with the famed Ohio State Marching Band, and received a standing ovation.
In 1927 the band won 2nd place honors in the State Band Contest, and traveled all the way to Council Bluffs, lowa for the National Contest where they earned 7th place. The band also competed at a later National Band Contest in Flint, Michigan. The Mansfield Band again won first in the state contest in 1930, and second in 1932, but did not go on to the national contests.
He served as band director at Mansfield High School from 1922 through 1950 at which time he was assigned to be director of the John Simpson Junior High School Band. He retired from active teaching in 1952 after 30 years of service, and served as a substitute teacher during the early years of his retirement. He died at his home in Mansfield on June 13,1969 at the age of 87
Holcombe enjoyed a long and rewarding career in music. He was affectionately known as "Prof" by his students and served not only as their teacher but also as an outstanding role model. In addition to his work with his students and with the state music organization, he also took a very active role in the life of the community.
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