Band director and friend remembered

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cumberland touched thousands of lives through music. Photo submitted

Cumberland touched thousands of lives through music.
Photo submitted

Long time band director at Picayune Memorial High School, Jerry Cumberland, passed away this weekend.

Cumberland, who worked with the Picayune school district for about 30 years, is remembered as an excellent band director, great friend and teacher.

“The Picayune school district is very saddened about the passing of Mr. Jerry Cumberland. He was a kind and wonderful person. We were blessed to have him as member of our staff for around 30 years. He was a great band director, teacher, mentor, and friend to countless students and members of our community,” said Picayune Superintendent Dean Shaw.

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Henry “Foots” Hill, former PMHS principal, said he admired Cumberland and remembers, “he was a delight to work with.”

“I admired him not just as a principal, but also as a friend,” Hill said.

Hill remembers one particular afternoon band practice that has stuck with him over the years.

He said one afternoon it was pouring down rain and had been raining for two or three days in a row. The field where the band practices was flooded and covered in mud, but Cumberland still expected his students to “walk in a straight line.”

Hill said the students kept trying to walk around the mud puddles and were falling out of formation. Just as Cumberland is fussing at the students, “he does a belly flop” and comes up “covered in muddy water.”

Hill remembers Cumberland saying, “Now that’s the way you do it.”

He said by the end of practice, the whole band was covered in mud.

Hill said sometimes it was hard to tell him from the kids.

“He always had a glint in his eye as far as a mischievous glint,” Hill said.

Jerry Samples, former director of Pride of the Tide, remembers a pleasant man who was nice to work with.

Samples said it was under Cumberland that the Pride of the Tide and marching band started being recognized as one.

“Not only was he a technically excellent band director, he was so interested in the students and showed such love for them,” Samples said.

She said she also worked with him outside of school. When she played hand bells for First Baptist Church, he was directing the church choir.

“He was a well-rounded man of integrity,” Samples said. “I smile still thinking of him and thinking of his smile.”

“Even though it’s been 7 years since the band has been under his direction, his influence is still alive in the band program,” said John Cockrell, current Picayune band director.

Cockrell said there are students who approach him every year asking if he knows Cumberland because Cumberland was the one who directed their parents years before.

“Our goal is to bring the program back to where Jerry Cumberland had it when he was there,” Cockrell said.

During Cumberland’s career he was named Band Director of the Year and inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Band Directors Association. He was also chosen for membership in Phi Beta Mu, the International Bandmasters’ Fraternity.

“His life was a testimony to the positive influence that all of us can have on the lives of young people,” Shaw said. “He left behind a legacy to be proud of. I count myself truly blessed by knowing Mr. C. Our thoughts and prayers will be with his wife, Lauren and his daughter Mallory.”