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Published: Saturday, 5/10/2008

Acclaimed director led bands 30 years at Sand Creek schools

MORENCI, Mich. - Richard J. Farley, 70, who won wide acclaim in 30 years as band director of the Sand Creek Community Schools and whose groups racked up win after win in district and state competitions, died Tuesday in Lutheran Hospital, Fort Wayne, Ind.

He underwent kidney dialysis the last five years and had serious health problems the last several years, his wife, Karlee, said.

Formerly of Morenci, they had lived at Lake Seneca in Williams County since 1997.

He began his career at Sand Creek in 1959, not long after graduating from Bowling Green State University. He retired in 1989 after being chosen band director of the year by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association.

"He had the knack of getting these kids to play instruments the way he wanted," his wife said.

Mr. Farley taught students instrumental music from fifth grade on. By the time his students were in junior high and high school, if they persevered, they were primed for his bands.

His junior high bands received top-division ratings at district and state band and orchestra festivals for 21 consecutive years. His high school bands received top-division ratings at festivals for 25 consecutive years.

His high school bands were featured twice at the Midwestern Music Educators Conference at the University of Michigan. His junior high band played at the American School Band and Orchestra Association national convention at Interlochen, Mich.

Some of the music played by the bands was composed by Michael Pratt, a fellow band director.

"He had probably one of the best small school [district] bands, if not the best, in the entire state of Michigan," said Mr. Pratt, the current Sand Creek band director. "He was good at what he did, and the techniques he used to motivate and teach kids - everything worked. It was extraordinary."

And the techniques were "definitely old-school," Mr. Pratt said: Mr. Farley was in charge, and students did as they were told.

Mr. Farley's wife said: "Those kids sat down in their chairs and played their instruments. There was none of that fooling around stuff."

Mr. Farley played trombone and baritone since 1972 in the Adrian Chamber Brass Ensemble, of which he was a founding member. He also played with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra.

A native of Johnstown, Pa., Mr. Farley had a master's degree in music education from Western Michigan University.

In retirement, Mr. Farley was on the adjunct faculty of Jackson, Mich., Community College.

He also made batons, and his business, Farley Conducting Batons, had customers around the world.

Mr. Farley was a former president of the Stair Public Library trustees in Morenci. He was a member of the Lake Seneca board of trustees.

For years he flew and raced sail planes.

He was formerly married to JoAnne Farley.

Surviving are his wife, Karyl "Karlee" Farley, whom he married Aug. 7, 1985; daughters, Christa McDowell and Lisa Sevcik; brother, Thomas Farley, and four grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Services will be private. Arrangements are by the Eagle Funeral Home-Charles Fink Chapel, Morenci, Mich. Memorial services will be 11 a.m. June 14 at Sand Creek High School.

The family suggests tributes to the Sand Creek Community Schools Band Boosters for a scholarship fund in Mr. Farley's name.



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