RALEIGH — Richard E. Southwick, a former music director at Broughton High School and founder of the first citywide youth orchestra, died Saturday. He was 97.
Students say Southwick gave a lot to them – musical knowledge and skill, the inspiration to become lifelong musicians and a home to retreat to within their school.
“The band room was a refuge,” said Stuart Holoman, a former student of Southwick’s. “It was a hideout. It was a place you could get away.”
Southwick retired in 1979 after 25 years as director of bands and orchestra at Broughton. A music man through and through, he also served as director of the Raleigh Community Band and director of the choir at Fairmont United Methodist Church, among other positions.
“His entire life was involved in music,” said Julia Southwick, his wife. “That’s one of the best things about being a musician – you get to make your living doing something you really enjoy.” Southwick is also survived by his daughter, Jan O’Rourke, and two granddaughters.
Former students remember Southwick as tolerant, fair and encouraging.
“He had a way of demanding you do well without beating you over the head to get it,” said Holoman, who graduated in 1961 and now directs the Cary Town Band. “Music is my whole life; I can give Dick a lot of credit for that.”
Frank Mayes, another 1961 graduate who is now a musician in New Orleans, remembers studying in the band room before school in the mornings.
At one point, Mayes considered dropping out of high school but ended up staying because he wanted to be first chair clarinet. Southwick gave him the position and taught him music theory as well. After college, Mayes moved back to Raleigh and played in the Capital City Concert Band, which Southwick also directed.
“Everybody loved Dick Southwick,” Mayes said. “I never heard of anybody that disliked him. He had a great spirit.”
Long after retiring from Broughton, Southwick continued to influence the music community, particularly young people.
Hugh Partridge, artistic director of the Philharmonic Association, said Southwick planted the seeds for youth orchestras in Raleigh by starting the first citywide youth orchestra. The Philharmonic Association, a collection of youth orchestras, honored Southwick for his work in a concert in 2007.
“He laid the groundwork for everything going on in youth string music in this community,” Partridge said.
A graveside service for Southwick will be held July 23 at Raleigh Memorial Park at 11 a.m. A memorial service will follow on August 17 at Fairmont United Methodist Church at 11 a.m.
Memorials should be donated through the Fairmont United Methodist Church’s music program.