Longtime band director remembered for high standards

May 13, 2011
By Bill Krueger

Donald B. Adcock, the longtime director of the marching band and other bands and musical groups at NC State, died this week. He was 85.

Adcock worked at NC State for 22 years, retiring in 1982 after helping hundreds of students become better musicians and entertaining thousands at football games, basketball games and other events.

Adcock was remembered by some of his former students this week as a demanding leader who expected the best from his musicians. They said he also took a personal interest in each of the students who played for him.

“Don was the kind of guy that you would walk through fire for,” said Charles Johnson ’76 of Cary, who played the trumpet in the marching band, orchestra, symphonic band and stage band. “He made the band and the musical program at State a real pleasure. People took pride in doing their very best for him.”

Johnson said Adcock was not hesitant to do things his way, noting that the group that played at NC State basketball games in those days was not a pep band that played the same fight songs over and over. Instead, they were a stage band that played a lot of big band music to entertain the Reynolds Coliseum crowd before games and at halftime. Johnson said UNC basketball coach Dean Smith once told Adcock how much he enjoyed the group’s big band sound.

“He made us better than we could ever have been without his strong leadership,” Johnson said of Adcock. “He was a guy you could laugh with and tell jokes with. But when it came time to put on a performance, he wanted the very best. He instilled that sense of pride in us.”

Pam Wilson ’77 of Raleigh started private lessons with Adcock when she was in the fifth grade. She came to NC State, in part, because she wanted to continue to perform with Adcock.

Women had just been allowed in the marching band when Wilson was a student at NC State, and the students received no course credit for their time with the band. But Adcock required band members to meet every day at noon for an hour of practice. Each week, he would have a new show for them to perform at that weekend’s football game.

“He loved the band members, cared about them personally,” Wilson said. “But he held you to a high standard. If you made a mistake, you went back and you fixed it and then you never made it again. Because of that, I became a much, much better player. He demanded excellence and he got it.”

Adcock’s daughter, Sylvia Adcock ’81, is the managing editor of NC State magazine. She said that after retiring from NC State, her father never stopped cheering for the Wolfpack and made sure he never missed a game.

Photo courtesy of Historical State collection, NC State Libraries.

Photo courtesy of Historical State collection, NC State Libraries.

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6 Responses to “Longtime band director remembered for high standards”

  1. Bob McSwain says:

    Marching Band and Stage Band were the diversions I needed to keep sane. For most of the players it was a time to forget diffeyq, random number generators, and EE404. Don knew this, but never let on that the other side of the tracks was where you were learning to earn your living. He was not going to let us slack up just because it only a 1 hour course! RIP Don Adcock. Miss you friend.

  2. Frank Hammond says:

    I followed Don at State in ’82. He was my friend and unofficial mentor. A good man.

  3. Ken Moore says:

    The N&O mentioned a memorial service later in the month. Any idea when and where ?

  4. Ann Pearce says:

    I met Don as a rising 8th grader at ECU Summer Music Camp the summer of 1958 when he was the flute instructor there. My audition for chairs on the first day became a mini-jazz lesson after I played (upon his request to “play a piece” after I did the required scales) “Swingin’ Shepherd Blues.” He quickly picked up his flute, and with a twinkle in his eye, suggested we jazz it up a bit. I left that practice room with the assurance that my first 2-week music camp experience was going to be great fun! He certainly was instrumental (pun intended) in developing my love of music!

  5. Bill Krueger says:

    Mr. Moore, the memorial service is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 29 (this Sunday), at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, 3313 Wade Ave., Raleigh.

    Bill Krueger
    Senior Associate Editor
    NC State magazine

  6. Larry Wright says:

    I was Pep Band Director 1980 – 1982. Don was a mentor to me and a friend. I will always remember his sense of humor and his dedication to his craft. I gained much from those experiences that made me who I am today. God Bless You Don!

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