W. Francis McBeth

W. Francis McBeth 1933-2012
IHS Band Class of 1951 (Trumpet)

President of the IHS Senior Class 1951, President of Future Farmer of America.  He lettered in football and track and was a member of the band and choir.  Mary Sue White McBeth, wife of Frances, was also in the Irving High Tiger Band class of 1951.

McBeth, who began playing trumpet in the second grade, received his BM in music Hardin Simmons University and Eastman School of Music in 1954.  He received his MM from the University of Texas in 1957.  He was Professor of music, resident composer and chairman of theory composition at Quachita University in Arkadelphia 1957-1996.

Dr. McBeth, who earned extensive accolades throughout his career, served as Ouachita’s composer-in-residence, Lena Goodwin Trimble Professor of Music and chair of the theory/composition department of the Division of Music. He also served as conductor of the Arkansas Symphony and as Arkansas’ composer laureate, the first composer laureate named in the United States.

McBeth, who joined the Ouachita faculty in 1957, was named Distinguished University Professor by the Ouachita Board of Trustees upon his retirement in 1996. Trustees also named the William Francis McBeth Recital Hall in Mabee Fine Arts Center in his honor.

President Emeritus Daniel Grant, who served as president of Ouachita from 1970 to 1988, recalled, “On becoming president of Ouachita Baptist University in 1970, I soon learned that W. Francis McBeth qualified as every university president’s distinguished ‘dream professor.’  Everyone sang his praises – students, faculty, administrators, custodians, community leaders and professional peers literally around the world!”

Citing McBeth’s recognition as Distinguished University Professor, Grant added that “he had already set an almost unreachable standard for measuring distinction.”

He served from 1954-56 with the 101st Airborne Band at Fort Jackson, S.C., and the 98th Army Band at Fort Rucker, Ala. One of the most prolific composers of wind band music in the 20th century, he was a past president of the American Bandmasters Association. His “Double Pyramid Balance System” is a widely used pedagogical tool in the concert band world.

During a musical tribute titled “The Creative World of Francis McBeth,” presented on the Ouachita campus in conjunction with his retirement, McBeth was invited to conduct several of his compositions as part of the two-night concert, including “Caccia, Opus 62,” “The Dream Catcher, Opus 86” and “The Gathering of the Waters, Opus 76.”

In a 2003 interview with Jim Newsom, McBeth said that “Through the Countless Halls of Air,” a piece commissioned by and dedicated to the U.S. Air Force Band, best defined his work. “I just think it’s the best piece I’ve ever done,” he noted.

Reflecting on his musical legacy, McBeth told Newsom that his fondest desire was for his fellow musicians, students and music lovers everywhere to say of him, “I liked his music!”

“That’s your whole lifetime’s work. You want it accepted more than you want yourself accepted,” McBeth explained. “The work is much more important – especially when you’ve spent your whole life just doing that.”

As a trumpet and bass violin player, McBeth performed in England, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy and Scotland. He also served as a conductor throughout Europe as well as Australia, Canada and Japan.

Among his many accomplishments, McBeth was a recipient of an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Special Award annually for more than 30 consecutive years. He also received the Howard Hanson Prize of the Eastman School of Music for his “Third Symphony,” the American School Band Directors Association’s Edwin Franko Goldman Award in 1983, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia’s American Man of Music in 1988, Kappa Kappa Psi’s National Service to Music Award in 1989, the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic’s Medal of Honor in 1993 and the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Medal of Honor in 2000.

Ouachita Chancellor Ben Elrod, who served as president from 1988 to 1998, said, “Mac was clearly among the top tier of composers of band music in the country. His works were performed country-wide and internationally. His identification with Ouachita gave added luster to the institution.

“Equal value issued from his life and career through the significant impact which his teaching had upon his students,” Elrod emphasized. “Although a celebrity, he was very accessible to students, colleagues, audiences and friends. His life was well-lived and made great contributions to all.”

Dr. Craig Hamilton, Lena Goodwin Trimble Professor of Music and director of bands, described McBeth as “a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend. Through his composition, conducting and teaching, he impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. His sharp wit and engaging smile endeared him to everyone he met. We are all better musicians, teachers and people for having known Dr. Mac. His passing leaves a huge void.”

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