James Croft ’51 is retired in Florida, enjoying his grandkids and golfing as much as he can. But not so long ago, Croft was jetting to conduct and lecture in such places as London’s Royal Albert Hall and Royal Academy of Music and Budapest’s Vigado Concert Hall and Liszt Academy of Music.
Croft’s life passion is music and teaching, and few have had such prolific careers as the man who is one of only six people with a lifetime membership in the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles. But for Croft, professor emeritus at Florida State University, it’s not the awards or the exotic and historic locales. He counts himself fortunate to be able to focus his life on something he loves.
"I think that music is the embodiment of the expressive nature of man,” said the Mount Vernon, Iowa, native. The more you know about it, the more you experience it, the more precious it becomes. If you’re a teacher, there’s a drive to pass this experience on.”
Croft has served as conductor, adjudicator, lecturer, and clinician in 46 states and throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, and Australia. His students include a number of performers in major orchestras and Washington-based military bands, as well as college and university faculty throughout the country.
Yet his pride is more like that of a proud father than that of a man who has every reason to flit off to Europe to play in the shadows of legends.
"Not bad,” said Croft, “for an overachieving high school band director.”
James Croft '51 received Cornell's Distinguished Achievement Award in 1989.