In Memoriam: Joe Phelps (1944–2018)

Trumpeter Joe Phelps, 73, of Vilas, NC, passed away on January 6, 2018 at The Foley Center in Blowing Rock. 

Joe Phelps

Born in Camden, Arkansas on February 27, 1944, Phelps was the son of the late William Joseph Phelps and the late Virginia Sue Johnson Phelps. Mr. Phelps earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond. He also studied at the University of North Texas, Denton; the University of Miami, Florida; and the University of Oklahoma, Norman.
Phelps studies with William Adam at Indiana University for his undergraduate work and on a continuing basis for more than thirty years. His other influential teachers were David Ritter (University of Central Arkansas), John Haynie (University of North Texas), Fred Peterson (Eastern Kentucky) and Gil Johnson (University of Miami).

While teaching band in the public schools of Arkansas and Indiana, Phelps played with the Fort Smith Symphony, the South Bend Symphony, and the Elkhart Symphony. He also soloed with the University of Notre Dame Concert Band. He was a member of the South Bend Symphony Brass Quintet and was an orchestra member of the Domaine School for Orchestral Conductors and Players, the Western Piedmont Symphony, and the North Carolina Symphony during their summer residencies in Boone.

He became Professor of Trumpet and Assistant Director of Bands at Appalachian State in 1971 and enjoyed a full-time career of 30 years supplemented with part-time teaching through the Fall of 2017. For the first 16 years, he was the director of the Symphonic Band and the Marching Mountaineers. During that time period, the marching band grew from 80 to more than 220 members and became known as “North Carolina’s Band of Distinction.” Phelps started and directed the Trumpet Choir. In addition, he played in faculty brass ensembles and was a soloist with the Appalachian Symphony Orchestra and the University Wind Ensemble, along with many guest appearances with high school bands throughout the state. Phelps was a member of the International Trumpet Guild.

Phelps has had articles and reviews published in The North Carolina Music Educator, the Band Directors’ Guide, and the International Trumpet Guild Journal. His book, So You Want to be a Trumpet Player, was published in 2002.

Among the awards and honors Phelps received were Appalachian’s Chancellor’s Award of Merit, the Distinguished Service Award from the Appalachian Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Teacher Award in the Hayes School of Music in 2001. In November of 2017, Phelps was elected to the North Carolina Bandmasters Association “Hall of Fame.”
Phelps was preceded in death by his wife Anne Dodd Phelps, brother William Johnson Phelps, and step-son Jay Dellinger. Surviving are Sister-In-Law Phyllis Phelps, nephews Michael and Joey Phelps, all of Little Rock, Arkansas, and step-son Craig Dellinger, niece, Ariel Dellinger, both of Kernersville, NC.

Plans for a future Celebration of Life for Joe Phelps are forthcoming and will be announced through the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University.

(Source: Brian Evans)


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