Donald Adcock, the longtime director of the marching band and other instrumental music groups at NC State, died this week. He was 85.
Adcock worked at NC State for 22 years, retiring in 1982 after helping hundreds of students become better musicians and entertaining thousands at football games, basketball games and other events.
Adcock was remembered by some of his former students this week as a demanding leader who expected the best from his musicians. They said he also took a personal interest in each of the students.
“Don was the kind of guy that you would walk through fire for,” said Charles Johnson of Cary, who played trumpet in the marching band, orchestra, symphonic band and stage band. “He made the band and the musical program at State a real pleasure. People took pride in doing their very best for him.”
Learning from the Maestro
Johnson said Adcock was not hesitant to do things his way, noting that the group that played at NC State basketball games in those days was not a pep band that played the same fight songs over and over. Instead, they were a stage band that played a lot of big band music to entertain the Reynolds Coliseum crowd before games and at halftime. Johnson said UNC basketball coach Dean Smith once told Adcock how much he enjoyed the group’s big band sound.
“He made us better than we could ever have been without his strong leadership,” Johnson said of Adcock. “He was a guy you could laugh with and tell jokes with. But when it came time to put on a performance, he wanted the very best. He instilled that sense of pride in us.”
Pam Wilson of Raleigh started private lessons with Adcock when she was in the fifth grade. She came to NC State, in part, because she wanted to continue to perform with Adcock.
Women had just been allowed in the marching band when Wilson was a student at NC State, and the students received no course credit for their time with the band. But Adcock required band members to meet every day at noon for an hour of practice. Each week, he would have a new show for them to perform at that weekend’s football game.
“He loved the band members, cared about them personally,” Wilson said. “But he held you to a high standard. If you made a mistake, you went back and you fixed it and then you never made it again. Because of that, I became a much, much better player. He demanded excellence and he got it.”
Adcock’s daughter, Sylvia Adcock, is the managing editor of NC State magazine. She said that after retiring from the university, her father never stopped cheering for the Wolfpack and made sure he never missed a game.