Remembering Dr. James Edwin Croft (1929-2012)
Teacher, father, husband, grandfather, conductor, and mentor; these are just a few of the words used to describe James Croft by his family and former students. The Director of Bands Emeritus at Florida State University passed away on September 6, 2012, with his beautiful wife of 61 years, Diana, by his side.
Dr. Croft was the consummate teacher and enjoyed a rich career that spanned 52 years! Many people only knew of Croft’s time as a college professor, but he taught many years in the public schools of Iowa and Wisconsin, as well. After graduating from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, he spent three years teaching in Traer, Iowa. His band of fifth through twelfth graders totaled only 31 students! After a move to Oshkosh High School in Wisconsin, it was time to build a program again. It was during the eighteen years at Oshkosh that Dr. Croft initiated his innovative concert series, started a composition contest, and programmed the finest literature available. Among other notable performances, his bands performed at the Mid-west National Band Clinic in 1957 and 1963.
James Croft’s musical vision and leadership continued when he began his college teaching career. While, at the University of South Florida in Tampa, he organized the first Festival of Winds. This comprehensive honor band festival is now in its 38th year and attracts students from all over the state of Florida. Upon his arrival at Florida State University, Croft and his band colleagues expanded the Tri-State Festival to include concert bands. Even more innovation came with the Prism concert. One non-stop concert, featuring small ensembles to the Marching Chiefs, has grown in popularity to the point of three sold out performances!
He also achieved a tremendous amount of professional success. A 21-year career as an elementary band director and high school band director were most impressive, and his national and international reputation as a guest conductor was also a significant achievement. His most significant and lasting contribution to society was the positive impact he had on thousands of students he taught during his career.
I was a music education student at Florida State University from 1983 to 1988. I did not realize it at the time, but 1983 was only Dr. Croft’s fourth year teaching at FSU. His way with people and confidence in the classroom made me feel as he had been on faculty for many years. The confidence he showed in my potential, as a student, continued after graduation. I always knew he was available to answer my questions with an honesty that was refreshing.
The Midwest Clinic is a time of professional and personal renewal. I am sad that I will no longer see him at concerts, walking the halls, or hosting the Florida State Reception. Dr. Croft was a model educator, husband, and human being; he will be missed.
Rodney C. Dorsey
Associate Director of Bands
University of Michigan