School Of Music Dean Pays Tribute To Late Professor

Sept. 13, 2004

Dr. Will V. May, dean of the School of Music at Baylor University, wrote the following letter to his colleagues in tribute to Dr. Larry Vanlandingham, professor emeritus of percussion instruments, who passed away Sept. 11.


The Baylor School of Music mourns the passing, yet celebrates the life of our friend and colleague, Larry Vanlandingham. Larry died Saturday, Sept. 11, 2004, after a long and trying physical struggle. Debilitating maladies may have disfigured his talented hands, slumped his shoulders, and caused him constant pain, but those illnesses never once softened Larry's zeal for his students and colleagues in the Baylor School of Music. His fierce determination, unyielding demand for excellence, and constant attention to growth and improvement literally transformed the School of Music during his tenure from a small enterprise in which a few faculty taught every conceivable course to the fully comprehensive school of national renown featuring specialists in every curricular area that we today enjoy. "Dr. V" and his dedicated band of colleagues loved Baylor University and her School of Music dearly and devoted their lives to students and to music.

Those external to the School of Music will remember Larry primarily as the mentor for a top-tier percussion program. Indeed, his former students occupy prestigious performing and teaching positions around the world. His peers in the world of percussion recognized his stature. For example, alone Larry stood along side schools with much larger percussion programs featuring many specialist teachers in Modern Drummer magazine's rankings of the top programs in the country to study trap-set drumming.

Music school insiders, however, know that percussion only began the long list of services he daily provided to our School. He taught a host of music courses during his career. Huge numbers of alumni will remember him more for being their demanding music theory teacher than simply the head of the percussion program. He even worked as one of the Golden Wave Marching Band's assistant directors.

Larry was the School of Music's self-appointed, self-taught technology guru long before the world of computers became ubiquitous on college campuses. He developed software for scheduling, student recruitment databases, alumni development, as well as instruction. He created and managed the School of Music's web site at a time when few people realized the significance and potential of that technological tool.

Almost until the time of his death, Larry Vanlandingham continued to perform music. He was a musician's musician. Toward the end of his teaching career and after the effects of arthritis had take a horrible toll on his hands, students still stood in amazement as their beloved "Dr. V" demonstrated just how a highly technical passage should be played on marimba or tympani.

We often say Baylor has been blessed, but sometimes I think we recognize the wrong blessings. Baylor University has been blessed by the presence of individuals like Larry Vanlandingham on her faculty. For 41 years, Larry Vanlandingham gave himself to Baylor students, friends, and faculty. He may have been small in physical stature, but his broad shoulders and those of a few others carried the Baylor School of Music into our bright present and our even brighter future.

William V. May

Dean, School of Music

Baylor University

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