Thomas Ryan Lawrence, 86, music teacher in Baltimore Co.

November 10, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Thomas Ryan Lawrence, who implemented vocal and instrumental music programs and instruction during more than 30 years as a Baltimore County teacher, died Thursday of heart failure at his Catonsville home. He was 86.

Mr. Lawrence came to Catonsville High School from Missouri in 1938 to teach music classes when little music instruction was offered in the county schools.

"He was totally consumed with music education," said Donald Regier, who worked with Mr. Lawrence as the county's supervisor of vocal and general music. "He was very persuasive and persistent in his instruction."

Much of Mr. Lawrence's success stemmed from his enthusiasm and ability to design music classes that kept students motivated, colleagues said.

"He always put himself on their level. He felt that everything must be made pretty basic, because, if the kids learned, he felt complete," said Gary Stiegers, a former county music teacher.

While at Catonsville High, he implemented a series of radio broadcasts by the school's A Cappella choir, as well as commencement exercises at the Lyric Theatre organized around vocal performances by the graduating class.

Born in Skidmore, Mo., Mr. Lawrence graduated from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in 1931 and received a master's degree from Columbia University in 1939.

He worked at Catonsville High School as music instructor until 1942, when he left to serve in the Army during World War II.

Mr. Lawrence married Mary Riddle in 1946 and returned to

Catonsville High School after being discharged from the Army. In 1950, he was named the county's first supervisor of instrumental music. Years later, he was named coordinator of music for Baltimore County Schools. He retired in 1975.

Mr. Lawrence was a founder of the Maryland Music Educators Association. He also was president of the Maryland Band and Orchestra Association from 1939 to 1941, when he started the first statewide competitive festivals for school instrumental and vocal ensembles.

He also began scholarships to summer music camps for talented students, started a program of group piano lessons and was the inspiration for educational concerts in county schools by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

"Tom Lawrence [was] above all a genuinely concerned person, dedicated to making the lives of other people more enriched and productive," said Benjamin Ebersole, the former director of curriculum for county schools.

Mr. Regier said Mr. Lawrence was so consumed with music education that even when they weren't in class he talked of teaching methods.

"Even during our brown bag lunches, all he wanted to talk about was music instruction," Mr. Regier said. "He was always concerned about their learning."

He was a longtime member and music director at the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road in Catonsville, where a memorial service is scheduled for 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Charles Lawrence of Sherman Oaks, Calif.; a daughter, Mary Sue Sidoti of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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