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Epilogue | Lawrence Lee Pope

Over 30 years, Lawrence Pope influenced music students in Lakeland, Plant City, St. Petersburg

Lawrence Pope made a lasting impression on countless music students in Lakeland, Plant City and St. Petersburg over his 30-year career.

Special to the Times

Lawrence Pope made a lasting impression on countless music students in Lakeland, Plant City and St. Petersburg over his 30-year career.

ST. PETERSBURG — Lawrence Pope raised his baton, not his voice. That was enough to keep a bustling music room full of middle school students aiming for the next right note.

For many young people, their first glimmers of music appreciation occurred in the classroom Mr. Pope occupied over a 30-year career — more than 20 of those years at 16th Street Junior High School (now John Hopkins Middle School). The talented musician who directed them filled his life and his passions by playing and teaching music.

Mr. Pope, a seminal influence on countless music students, died Monday of abdominal cancer. He was 86.

"He was passionate in a very low-key way, he was passionate about music itself. He was the person who made it possible for me to go into my career," said Samuel Floyd, a retired musicology and music education professor and former provost at Columbia College Chicago, where he directed the Center for Black Music Research.

Floyd said Mr. Pope gave him his start in music at Rochelle High School in Lakeland, inviting him to play in gigs with him. Mr. Pope taught at Rochelle and Plant City high schools before joining 16th Street in 1959.

He made a permanent impression on hundreds of students at 16th Street, initially a segregated school where he ran the orchestra while Sam Robinson, another legendary musical director, handled the band.

"He ran a very tight ship," said former 16th Street violin student Wanda Stuart, 56. "You had to keep your nails filed. When you came to practice, you practiced."

Daughter Lauren Jordan, 55, said her father was mild-mannered. "But when it was time to flip the switch, he could do it."

After school, Mr. Pope gave free music lessons to children from the neighboring Immaculate Conception Catholic School.

One former student, state Rep. Darryl Rouson, remembers Mr. Pope as "just a very quiet but very serious man about music, teaching it and trying to spark a love of music in children."

Linda Hillsman Maize, a former violin student at 16th Street, said Mr. Pope "set levels of expectation in me far beyond what I set for myself."

After setting it aside for 30 years, she picked up her violin and is now playing for an Atlanta community orchestra. "A lot of what I am doing, I am doing without any private instruction, just remembering what he taught me," said Maize, 59.

As if his schedule were not busy enough, Mr. Pope also owned a television repair shop through the 1960s. He spent time with his family and liked taking long car trips. He drove his wife and three children to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Montreal's Expo 67.

He also continued to play locally. He specialized in the trombone, playing with jazz pianist Al Downing and others.

Lawrence Lee Pope grew up in Daytona Beach and got his first violin lesson at age 12. He played in the 771st Army Band and was honorably discharged in 1945.

At Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Florida A&M), he was an early member of the high-stepping Marching 100 band directed by marching band innovator William P. Foster, alongside budding jazz greats Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and his brother Nathaniel.

Other band members knew Mr. Pope as a straight arrow who went to his room to study while they partied. He met Oretha Brown, also a future teacher, in college and married her in 1954.

Besides directing the orchestra, Mr. Pope took over band duties at 16th Street after Robinson left. He retired in 1982 and served as a longtime music director — and gardener — at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church.


Lawrence Lee Pope

Born: Nov. 2, 1924.

Died: June 27, 2011.

Survivors: Son Lawrence Pope Jr.; daughters Lauren Jordan and Oretha Pope Jr.; sisters Elizabeth Cowart and Reeva Desmore; half sister Charlotte Pope; three grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

Service: Plans are pending through Creal Funeral Home.

Over 30 years, Lawrence Pope influenced music students in Lakeland, Plant City, St. Petersburg 06/29/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 10:12pm]
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