Richard L. Daniel, shown in 1977

Richard L. Daniel, shown in 1977 (August 24, 2011)

Richard Lyle Daniel, a retired Baltimore County public school music instructor who played with and led several jazz bands, died Monday of heart failure at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Pa.

The longtime Finksburg resident was 79.

The son of a paper mill worker and a homemaker, Mr. Daniel was born and raised in West Point, Va., and graduated in 1950 from West Point High School.

He served in the Air Force until 1951, when he was given an honorable medical discharge.

Mr. Daniel, who began music lessons when he was 12 and played with big bands in high school, entered Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va., where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1956 in music education and majored in the saxophone.

He later earned a master's degree in 1964 in music from the University of Maryland, College Park, and took additional classes at Loyola College.

An instrumental music teacher, Mr. Daniel began teaching at the old Pikesville Elementary School and later joined the faculty of Franklin High School, where he taught for more than 20 years.

Called "Mr. D." by his students, Mr. Daniel spent a decade teaching music at Owings Mills High School before retiring in 1986.

Larry Leeds, who now owns and operates Leeds' Band Instrument Repair in Finksburg, studied music with Mr. Daniel at Pikesville Elementary School.

"That was around 1956, and I was studying clarinet," recalled Mr. Leeds. "As a teacher, he was wonderful and one heck of a guy. I never saw him get mad or frustrated, and he always had positive suggestions for his students."

He added: "Dick Daniel was one of those guys back in the day who were super people when it came to teaching music. They were dedicated and made the experience both fun and fine."

In 1968, he took the Franklin High School Band to Mexico City, where it performed at the Olympics.

His professional memberships included the Music Teachers Association and Band Directors of Maryland.

In addition to his teaching, during the 1970s, Mr. Daniel taught music at what is now McDaniel College, and for years played in numerous jazz bands.

"I've been a longtime friend of Dick's since moving to Carroll County, and we performed together and with other different groups in the county," said James A. Mayola, who is the assistant director of the office of career services at McDaniel College.

"He was my sax player with my Standard Delivery Combo until he went into the hospital earlier this year. He was a lot of fun to play with. He had lots of energy, and people liked watching him on stage," said Mr. Mayola.

"He was always very comfortable and exhibited great musicianship. He could also play all reed instruments," he said. "Dick also liked all kinds of music and was comfortable in any key."

Mr. Mayola said his friend was not averse to rehearsals.

"He actually liked to rehearse. He was very concerned that his style of playing matched that of the band," he said. "He told me that one of the highlights of his teaching career was taking his students to the Olympics."

Bill and Betsy Patterson, Carroll County musicians, were friends of 40 years and often performed with Mr. Daniel.

"I do a once-a-year benefit called the "Big Band Merry Christmas," and Dick always played tenor sax for me. He also played tenor sax in the Sousa Band," said Mr. Patterson. "My wife and he played in the Never Too Late Band at the Carroll Lutheran Village."

Mr. Patterson said that in retirement, his friend was able to play with five different groups and continued doing so until becoming ill earlier this year.

"Dick played a lot of the old standards and certainly enjoyed doing it," he said.

Barbara Patterson, who taught instrumental music in Carroll County public schools before retiring, plays both the clarinet and saxophone.

"We played together for years and traveled to jobs together. He was first alto sax and I was second," said Mrs. Patterson. "I went to the same conservatory as Dick, but a few years later and before I knew him, and remember hearing all about Dick Daniel and his abilities."

She described him as a "very likable guy who always had a story to tell, which made him always interesting to be around."

Mr. Daniel, who had lived in Finksburg for 49 years, enjoyed building and flying radio-controlled airplanes and was a member of the Carroll County Flying Club.

He was married for 55 years to the former Estale Harris, a retired Baltimore County public school educator and musician, who is church organist at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Reisterstown and at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Glyndon.

Mr. Daniel was a communicant of All Saints' Episcopal Church, 203 E. Chatsworth Ave., where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Daniel is survived by two sons, Gregory Scott Daniel of Westminster and Christopher Todd Daniel of Sykesville; and two grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com