Milford residents recall musician Norman ‘Joe’ Lear Sr.

MILFORD — Norman “Joe” Lear Sr. was Milford’s “Music Man.”

The lifelong musician, who died June 13 at age 95, is now being remembered locally.

Born in Harlingen, Texas, Mr. Lear started playing trombone in middle and high school auditoriums in San Antonio after his family moved there from the Rio Grande Valley. It’s where developed a love for playing in bands.

Joe Lear

Following 21 years of active service in the U.S. Air Force, he settled in Milford in 1964. And throughout the next 22 years at General Foods in Dover, he played the trombone at night and continued contributing to local bands.

Then, while attending Wesley College in Dover, the Wesley Jazz Band became a second home.

After graduating, he could no longer play in the university’s band.

So, he rekindled his love of music and bands in Milford.

First, he volunteered as an assistant to the director of the Milford High School band, which was led by Gerald Thompson.

“Joe came in religiously, every single day at the beginning of seventh period,” Mr. Thompson said. “He would take his horn and sit with the trombone players. He really loved just playing.”

He also loved computers, which he had studied at Wesley, and used that skill to help Mr. Thompson run the business side of the high school band. Those talents also came in handy when Mr. Lear decided he needed a larger community in which to play his music.

Mr. Lear would say, “Now that I’m not at Wesley, I don’t have any place to play my trombone,” Mr. Thompson recalled.

The teacher suggested he start a community band.

And Mr. Lear did. He put a notice in the Milford Chronicle in January 1990, inviting people to join the Milford Community Band.
Sixteen people came to the first rehearsal, and some have stayed for 30 years.

Not only did Mr. Lear love music, but his passion was sharing that love of music with anyone who wanted to play.

“He loved bringing people together,” said John Hoffmann, lead trumpet in the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Smooth Sound Dance Band, two offshoots of the MCB.

“He always had a story. He always had respect for people joining the band. He was one of the most respectful men I have ever met,” he said.

Mr. Lear also was famous for his encouragement. Even on bad practice days, when instruments squeaked and the sound was decidedly off, Mr. Lear never had a word of disappointment.

“Joe’s my hero,” said Glenn Luedtke, associate conductor and timpani and trumpet player for MCB’s Concert Band and a retired U.S. Army Band member.

“Sometimes, when you play an instrument, you run into a rough spot. You ask yourself, is it time to cash it in? Then, you look over at Joe – playing the trombone, having a good time, and you know you’ll keep playing. I want to be Joe.”

Mr. Lear played such a role in inspiring musicians from ages 15 to 100 that the Milford Community Band’s practice hall is named for him.

“I will always remember how he supported everyone around him,” said John Gemma, saxophonist and leader for the Downtown Dixieland Band and saxophonist in the Smooth Sound Dance Band.

He was passionate about getting young people in the band, he said.

MILFORD — Norman “Joe” Lear Sr. was Milford’s “Music Man.”

The lifelong musician, who died June 13 at age 95, is now being remembered locally.

Born in Harlingen, Texas, Mr. Lear started playing trombone in middle and high school auditoriums in San Antonio after his family moved there from the Rio Grande Valley. It’s where developed a love for playing in bands.

Following 21 years of active service in the U.S. Air Force, he settled in Milford in 1964. And throughout the next 22 years at General Foods in Dover, he played the trombone at night and continued contributing to local bands.

Then, while attending Wesley College in Dover, the Wesley Jazz Band became a second home.

After graduating, he could no longer play in the university’s band.

So, he rekindled his love of music and bands in Milford.

First, he volunteered as an assistant to the director of the Milford High School band, which was led by Gerald Thompson.

“Joe came in religiously, every single day at the beginning of seventh period,” Mr. Thompson said. “He would take his horn and sit with the trombone players. He really loved just playing.”

He also loved computers, which he had studied at Wesley, and used that skill to help Mr. Thompson run the business side of the high school band. Those talents also came in handy when Mr. Lear decided he needed a larger community in which to play his music.

Mr. Lear would say, “Now that I’m not at Wesley, I don’t have any place to play my trombone,” Mr. Thompson recalled.

The teacher suggested he start a community band.

And Mr. Lear did. He put a notice in the Milford Chronicle in January 1990, inviting people to join the Milford Community Band.
Sixteen people came to the first rehearsal, and some have stayed for 30 years.

Not only did Mr. Lear love music, but his passion was sharing that love of music with anyone who wanted to play.

“He loved bringing people together,” said John Hoffmann, lead trumpet in the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Smooth Sound Dance Band, two offshoots of the MCB.

“He always had a story. He always had respect for people joining the band. He was one of the most respectful men I have ever met,” he said.

Mr. Lear also was famous for his encouragement. Even on bad practice days, when instruments squeaked and the sound was decidedly off, Mr. Lear never had a word of disappointment.

“Joe’s my hero,” said Glenn Luedtke, associate conductor and timpani and trumpet player for MCB’s Concert Band and a retired U.S. Army Band member.

“Sometimes, when you play an instrument, you run into a rough spot. You ask yourself, is it time to cash it in? Then, you look over at Joe – playing the trombone, having a good time, and you know you’ll keep playing. I want to be Joe.”

Mr. Lear played such a role in inspiring musicians from ages 15 to 100 that the Milford Community Band’s practice hall is named for him.

“I will always remember how he supported everyone around him,” said John Gemma, saxophonist and leader for the Downtown Dixieland Band and saxophonist in the Smooth Sound Dance Band.

He was passionate about getting young people in the band, he said.

MILFORD — Norman “Joe” Lear Sr. was Milford’s “Music Man.”

The lifelong musician, who died June 13 at age 95, is now being remembered locally.

Born in Harlingen, Texas, Mr. Lear started playing trombone in middle and high school auditoriums in San Antonio after his family moved there from the Rio Grande Valley. It’s where developed a love for playing in bands.

Following 21 years of active service in the U.S. Air Force, he settled in Milford in 1964. And throughout the next 22 years at General Foods in Dover, he played the trombone at night and continued contributing to local bands.

Then, while attending Wesley College in Dover, the Wesley Jazz Band became a second home.

After graduating, he could no longer play in the university’s band.

So, he rekindled his love of music and bands in Milford.

First, he volunteered as an assistant to the director of the Milford High School band, which was led by Gerald Thompson.

“Joe came in religiously, every single day at the beginning of seventh period,” Mr. Thompson said. “He would take his horn and sit with the trombone players. He really loved just playing.”

He also loved computers, which he had studied at Wesley, and used that skill to help Mr. Thompson run the business side of the high school band. Those talents also came in handy when Mr. Lear decided he needed a larger community in which to play his music.

Mr. Lear would say, “Now that I’m not at Wesley, I don’t have any place to play my trombone,” Mr. Thompson recalled.

The teacher suggested he start a community band.

And Mr. Lear did. He put a notice in the Milford Chronicle in January 1990, inviting people to join the Milford Community Band.
Sixteen people came to the first rehearsal, and some have stayed for 30 years.

Not only did Mr. Lear love music, but his passion was sharing that love of music with anyone who wanted to play.

“He loved bringing people together,” said John Hoffmann, lead trumpet in the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Smooth Sound Dance Band, two offshoots of the MCB.

“He always had a story. He always had respect for people joining the band. He was one of the most respectful men I have ever met,” he said.

Mr. Lear also was famous for his encouragement. Even on bad practice days, when instruments squeaked and the sound was decidedly off, Mr. Lear never had a word of disappointment.

“Joe’s my hero,” said Glenn Luedtke, associate conductor and timpani and trumpet player for MCB’s Concert Band and a retired U.S. Army Band member.

“Sometimes, when you play an instrument, you run into a rough spot. You ask yourself, is it time to cash it in? Then, you look over at Joe – playing the trombone, having a good time, and you know you’ll keep playing. I want to be Joe.”

Mr. Lear played such a role in inspiring musicians from ages 15 to 100 that the Milford Community Band’s practice hall is named for him.

“I will always remember how he supported everyone around him,” said John Gemma, saxophonist and leader for the Downtown Dixieland Band and saxophonist in the Smooth Sound Dance Band.

He was passionate about getting young people in the band, he said.

“No one was more supportive than Joe,” Mr. Gemma said. “It’s amazing what kids were able to do over a short period of time, with Joe building up their confidence.”