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Northwinds Symphonic Band founder Ron Evans dies
Conductor served as high school band director, Arts Council board member
Ron Evans shares a laugh while directing The Northwinds Symphonic Band. The longtime band director and conductor died Saturday at age 73. He led the band's performance in its annual Memorial Day concert in Gainesville.

Ron Evans tells of the founding of The Northwinds Symphonic Band in a 2012 Times profile.

Ron Evans, founder and conductor of the Northwinds Symphonic Band, died Saturday. He was 73.

“What a great loss for our community,” Gladys Wyant, executive director of The Arts Council, said in an email.

Wyant said Evans, a 50-year Gainesville resident, served on The Arts Council board for at least 12 years. He founded the band in 1984.

He spent 23 years in the Hall County school system, and served as band director at South Hall (Johnson), Gainesville and Shiloh high schools before retiring in 1997.

There was no immediate information on funeral plans.

“As founder and conductor of The Northwinds Symphonic Band, Ron transformed a small group of musicians into a large, quality band reaching out to all corners of North Georgia,” Wyant said. “People loved working with Ron. He had a way of putting people at ease, and his hard work to develop each production was a labor of love.”

The band is best known for its annual patriotic Memorial Day concerts. In a 2012 interview, Evans reflected on why those concerts were special to him.

“When I see our veterans march in a circle around the First Baptist Church on Memorial Day as the band plays ‘Americans We,’ I get tears in my eyes as the younger service members march with great stride and the older vets who possess canes, walkers and wheelchairs proudly make their way around the circle just to let everyone know they still can and will do with every ounce of their being,” he said. “It’s a feeling of pride that gets me going emotionally.”

Evans was born and raised on a farm in the small town of Arp near Fitzgerald in south central Georgia.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Georgia, a masters of music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago and a specialist in education degree from Troy University.

Mercer Crook, Evans’ longtime friend and assistant conductor, said the two became friends when they were high school band directors, Evans at South Hall (later Johnson) High and Crook at East Hall.

“Through all of those years, he and stayed close friends. We had a type of friendship that was pushed by motivation. I wanted my band to outperform his and he wanted his to outperform mine,” Crook said.

“Musically, in the community, he would do whatever needed to be done. He’s probably the greatest ambassador of music you could find. ... He was always willing to do for others.”

Wyant said Evans also performed and led musicians for Gainesville Theatre Alliance and Gainesville High School stage productions.

“In addition to my loss as a personal friend, we at The Arts Council will miss Ron’s enthusiasm and total support of our board and other arts organizations in our community,” Wyant said.

“Ron loved the music of John Phillip Sousa, and when he donned the costume of Sousa, people in the audience were amazed at the accuracy of his portrayal of a much loved music icon. Ron Evans is Gainesville’s Sousa!”

Evans held memberships in the Music Educators National Conference, Georgia Music Educators Association and Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters fraternity. He was twice awarded the Citation of Excellence, and received a special citation from the John Philip Sousa Foundation in recognition of his efforts promoting concert bands in America. In 1998, the Georgia Music Educators Association awarded him its coveted Distinguished Career Award.

Evans also was a board member for the Gainesville ProMusica Society. In 2002-2004, he served on the Vestry of Grace Episcopal Church.

He is survived by his wife, Karyl Evans; two daughters, Kelli Evans Bolin of Austin, Texas, and Shana Evans Bassett of Atlanta; and several grandchildren.

Staff member Charles Phelps contributed to this story.

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