CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Tom Barry, assistant professor of oboe and saxophone at the University of Northern Iowa, will be honored at the UNI Jazz Panthers spring concert.
The event, conducted by Bob Washut, takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Bengston Auditorium at Russell Hall on the UNI campus. Barry is retiring at semester’s end after 40 years.
Barry will play three special commissioned selections with the band as part of a tribute to his lengthy career. Returning alum Jeff Hellmer (1981), director of jazz studies at the University of Texas-Austin, will perform with Barry. A plaque presentation is planned, and a reception follows the free concert.
A varied career
Barry teaches applied oboe and saxophone as well as classes in music technology and audio recording, and has engineered numerous recordings and sound for concerts and recitals at the UNI School of Music. In earlier years, he taught guitar, and was director of UNI’s Jazz Band II from 1989 to 1991.
“Tom Barry has had a remarkable career at UNI, not only as an incredible teacher but as a professional performer. Tom also served as a professional audio engineer,” says John Vallentine, professor and director of the UNI School of Music.
“Tom has taught hundreds of students who have become successful music teachers in Iowa’s schools, professional musicians, professors or successful business people.
“Tom’s saxophone studio has been so successful that when he announced his retirement, two national searches had to be mounted in order to serve his students. It is remarkable that he leaves his career — at the top of his game — with one of the largest studios in UNI history,” Vallentine says
Several years ago, the musician retired from the WCFSO where he was principal oboist for 36 years. Barry has been a soloist with orchestras and bands throughout the state. He served as principal oboist of the UNI Northwind Quintet, as well, and is sound technician for Orquesta Alto Maiz.
“The breadth of what he has brought to the school in terms of artistry and technical assistance is significant,” says Washut, who has known Barry since the 1980s. “We’re colleagues and friends. I hired him as sound man about four years after we started Orquesta. Tom has put together all the audio and recording for every jazz band and combo concert I’ve been involved with. He’s fastidious, and he does it right every time.”
When Russell Hall was remodeled several years ago, Barry was involved in designing the recording studio.
“Being a teacher is getting used to retiring and coming out of retirement every year. That’s the good and bad of it, in a way. It’s nice to have the summer, and the longer I’ve been at this, the more attractive the summers look. But this job at UNI is hard to walk away from. It’s the love of my life, aside from my wife and family and playing my instruments” says Barry.
The numbers 4-0 may have had something to do with his decision, he admits. “Forty years is a long time to do anything. My teaching studios are in good shape, and I want to leave while I’m still on my game.”
Although Barry is stepping out of the studios and classroom, he will continue with recording projects at the university.
A saxophonist with Checker and the Bluetones in his spare time, Barry will be featured in the second half of Thursday’s concert. Music will include an arrangement by alum Paul Clark and other music familiar to Bluetone fans. Both Clark and Hellmer were members of Barry’s group, Windsong.
Barry graduated with bachelor and master’s degrees in music education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He taught instrumental music in the Jefferson County public school system in Denver before joining the UNI School of Music in 1973.