Robert E. Kersey, musician and educator

Former Carroll administrator taught in Baltimore County, played at Atlantic City and arranged music for NBC

January 03, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Robert E. Kersey, a trumpet player, music educator and Carroll County public schools administrator, died of cancer Sunday at the Shores at Wesley Manor Health Care Center in Ocean City, N.J. The former Westminster resident was 84.

Born in Trenton, N.J., he played the trumpet as a boy. When his father was named manager of the Hotel Lafayette in Atlantic City, N.J., he became a regular listener to live bands at venues at the resort.

During World War II, he played in an Army Air Forces band and was an infantry rifleman at the Battle of the Bulge. He later toured Europe with the 16th Regiment Band.

After the war, he played with the Alex Bartha Orchestra at the Steel Pier. In a 1987 Sun interview, he recalled that the music scene was so rich that living in Atlantic City was like "giving a cat a fish market."

He commuted to New York and received a certificate from Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and a bachelor's degree from New York University. He then moved to New York and was an NBC music librarian and arranger for its radio and live television shows.

In 1951, his wife, the former Florence Beach, developed a lung infection doctors said was exacerbated by New York City air.

Mr. Kersey began sending letters to rural school systems in hopes of getting a job. Carroll County contacted him first and Mr. Kersey took a train to Baltimore, met the Carroll County superintendent at Penn Station, signed a teaching contract over a cup of coffee and took a return train to New York.

He finished his job at NBC, played the summer at Atlantic City and drove to Westminster in a beat-up 1940 Chevrolet. He became one of two circuit-riding instrument teachers who visited schools in Taneytown, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Union Bridge and Sykesville.

He taught in Carroll County for two years, then joined the Baltimore County school system, where he taught for 12 years at Sudbrook and Milford Mill schools. He earned his master's degree at Peabody Conservatory and his doctorate from the University of Maryland, and was also an instructor and band director at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College.

He also led the Pikesville Kiwanis Band and did freelance musical work. In the summer, he returned to Atlantic City, where he performed at nightclubs and composed music for the Ice Capades.

In 1967, Mr. Kersey returned to Carroll County as supervisor of music and art. He was promoted to director of curriculum, assistant superintendent and then acting superintendent of Carroll County schools for a six-month period in 1987.

He had a musical group, Bob Kersey's Big Band, and helped run September Song, a charity event that raised nearly $200,000 in 21 years.

He was also a former president of the Maryland Music Educators Association and a past president of the Carroll County Arts Council.

He wrote numerous musical compositions, several of which made their premiere at Peabody, and also published music education books.

A memorial service will be held at noon Wednesday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Ocean City, N.J.

In addition to his wife of 62 years, survivors include a daughter, Karen Kersey Tangney of Ocean City, N.J.; and a granddaughter.

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