WELLSVILLE – The sun beat through the windows, baking the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses standing in the top row of risers. There were no crisp autumn breezes or chills in the air as we sang about white Christmases and sleigh rides in the middle of a blazing September.
But there was frivolity when Mr. Darr joked, “Get off the stove grandma, you’re too old to ride the range.”
It was a joke we had heard hundreds of times from the time we first walked into the music room as seventh graders to the concerts we sang in auditoriums far from home.
This is just one of the ways Jack Darr kept his students engaged and one of the reasons why he was as popular with science, math and English students as he was with junior and senior choirs, madrigal singers, students of music and sound. And that’s why they still think of him fondly decades after sitting in his classroom at Wellsville High School.
Wellsville Village Mayor Randy Shayler would proclaim Friday, Sept. 2, Jack Darr Day in the Village of Wellsville.
Sadly, Darr won’t be there for the appreciation. He passed away on November 21, 2020, in Orlando, Florida. He won’t be there, but his children will recognize the honor, along with his friends and many of the students he touched in his 32 years in the Wellsville music department.
One of his former students, Gail Duke Allen, who as an adult performed with local bands, recalled, “Growing up, I was constantly exposed to guitar, fiddle music, and singing in our home, so music was certainly not unknown. for me. But when I got to high school and entered Jack Darr’s class, a whole new world opened up to me. He introduced me to classical vocal music and above all to musical theatre.
“I was lucky enough to be offered voice lessons, which I loved very much. He took me and many others to competitions, so I learned to sing in front of people. Throughout my life I used all the skills he taught me Mr. Darr. I am so grateful to have had him as a mentor and will always have fond memories of him and his impact on my life.”
Darr’s musical instruction did not stop when he retired from high school. His career continued when he became choral director of the renowned Genesee Valley Choir. He directed the choir several times over the years.
A long-time GVC member, Sharlet Fuller also has fond memories of singing under Jack Darr. “He was a great director and kept the choir going over the years. He directed us several times. It was a big band and he got us to do a few different gigs. He was a good man to sing.”
Julie Darr Jenkins, Darr’s daughter, who now lives in Florida, sent a Facebook message to her friends in Wellsville, inviting them to a Celebration of Life service for her father.
“As many of you know, our father, Jack Darr, passed away in November 2020 and due to COVID and family obligations we have not been able to hold a Celebration of Life for him.
“Our father loved Wellsville and raised us there. We are all traveling to Wellsville over Labor Day weekend and will be hosting a reception at L’Italia on Saturday from 7pm to 9:30pm. Please feel free to stop by and say hi to Jay, Jeff, Joel and I. Whether our dad was your teacher, your band director, your choir director, your softball coach, your golf partner, or any other hat he wore, we would we wanted to have this time to honor him and share him with you.”
John “Jack” Darr Jr. was born in East Stroudsburg, Pa., in 1931. He attended graduate school at Mansfield State University where he received a master’s degree in music education. He earned a Master of Science in Education from Alfred University and later completed graduate work at Syracuse University.
Darr taught at several schools, including three years at Otto-Eldred High School in Duke Center, Pa., one year at Olean High School – and 32 years at Wellsville High School. He was also an adjunct professor at Jamestown Community College for several years.
He was a veteran of the US Army and played clarinet with the Army Band 326. He enjoyed music throughout his life and directed church choirs, the Genesee Valley Choir and was involved in several musical theater productions in Wellsville.
Darr was a member of the Loyal Order of Masons and a past member of the Lions Club. He is buried at McKean Memorial Park in Lafayette Township, Pa.