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Archive for Wednesday, November 6, 1991

FORMER DIRECTOR OF KU BAND DIES

November 6, 1991

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Russell L. Wiley, Kansas University's former band director and the founder of KU's Midwestern Music and Art Camp, died early today at St. Joseph Health Center in Kansas City, Mo.

He suffered a heart attack last Thursday in a one-vehicle accident in a shopping center parking lot near his home in Prairie Village. He and his wife, Charmaine Asher-Wiley, were shopping for a camcorder to videotape his upcoming 88th birthday party. Mrs. Asher-Wiley was driving, and Wiley was a passenger in the car, which bumped into a concrete pier that supported a street light.

Wiley was born in Nov. 26, 1903 in Woodson, Tex., to George Washington and Caroline Cynthia Martin Wiley. He attended Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, where his brother was band director. He also studied at Randolph College, Drake University, the American Conservatory in Chicago and at Phillips University in Enid, Okla., where he was given free tuition in return for a promise to build a band. He kept his promise and also started the Tri-State Music Festival, which is still in existence.

HE CAME TO KU as band director in 1934, and founded the music and art camp in 1936. In 1939, he started KU's Band Day, which still attracts hundreds of high school band students to join in a massive halftime show at a KU football game each fall.

From 1942 to 1957, Wiley conducted the University Symphony Orchestra.

He retired from his post as band director in 1968 to devote more time to the camp. He retired as camp director in 1974. He also had been a conductor for the Lawrence Symphony.

Bob Foster, KU director of music and dance, described his predecessor as "larger than life."

"His contributions were pretty remarkable," he said. "He came here at a time when the band program was not very big and not very strong and he provided great leadership for more than 30 years. He basically started the tradition of excellence in KU band that we try to continue today."

Foster said Wiley was an excellent recruiter who managed to attract some of the nation's top musicians to study and perform at KU.

Wiley would probably consider the music camp one of his greatest achievements, Foster said. "It has served tens of thousands of students for over 50 years," he said.

THROUGHOUT his career, Wiley received many honors and awards, including being named Band Director of the Year by the Kansas Band Masters Assn. and being initiated in the Kansas Music Educators Assn. Hall of Fame for Outstanding Musicians, Foster said.

Wiley also was a member of the American Band Masters Assn., the most prestigious organization in the world for band directors.

Foster said Wiley used to lead band rehearsals every morning at 7 a.m. in Hoch Auditorium, where the basketball team would practice in the evenings.

Wiley married Charmaine Asher in August 1957 at KU's Danforth Chapel.

Mrs. Asher-Wiley was listed in fair condition this morning at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Other survivors include two sons, Dan Wiley, Bethesda, Md., and Fred Wiley, El Cajon, Calif.; three daughters, Velma Lee Bogart, Arlington, Tex., Anna Wiley, Dallas, and Jeannie Coe, Seattle; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services for Mr. Wiley will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Country Club Christian Church, 61st and Ward Parkway, in Kansas City, Mo., with the Rev. George Gordon officiating. Burial will be at 1 p.m. Friday in Memorial Park Cemetery, Lawrence.

A memorial service will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the First Christian Church in Lawrence with the Rev. Ron Goodman officiating.

Friends may call from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Rumsey Funeral Home, where the family will meet friends from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.

The family suggests memorials to the Russell L. Wiley Band Scholarship Fund in care of the KU Endowment Association or the funeral home.

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