Reppard P. "Repp” Stone, a distinguished teacher, musician and jazz composer whose arrangements were favored by such jazz greats as Ethel Ennis and Billy Eckstine , died Oct. 2 in his sleep at FutureCare Coldspring. The 60-year Morgan Park resident was 89.
“He was one of the most dynamic musicians I’ve ever met. He was a great arranger, teacher and was knowledgeable about not only jazz but classical music,” said Fred Irby III, professor of music at Howard University and director of the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. “He loved his students and colleagues and would do anything for them.”
Reppard Phillip Stone, the son of Sam Stone, a Southern Railroad mechanic, and his wife, Lurenza Hicks Stone, was born the second of six children, in Macon, Georgia.
Dr. Stone was a 1948 graduate of the old Ballard-Hudson High School, which was a segregated high school in Macon.
As a youngster, Dr. Stone’s mother arranged for him to have piano lessons with Cassie Morris, who when the lesson was concluded, ate dinner with his family. He also studied “John Thompson’s Piano Method.”
“Well, one of the things that really started my career was that after this gentleman named Cassie Morris would have his meal, he would sit down and play jazz,” Dr. Stone told Elizabeth Schaaf, of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, for “Sounds & Stories. The Musical Life of Maryland’s African-American Communities,” in 2002.
“I found the jazz that he played, supposedly for our entertainment, more interesting than old John Thompson’s lesson in the piano method book,” he said.
When a band was established at his high school, Dr. Stone had planned to play the trumpet, but all of the trumpets were gone, so he took up the trombone. “And the rest was history,” he told Ms. Schaaf. “After that, I was hooked.”
During World War II, he’d go to Camp Wheeler, an Army base near Macon, and play with Army band musicians.
“He’d sneak out at night and go out to the base and then try and get home before his parents knew about it,” said his daughter, Diahann G. Stone, of Baltimore, with a laugh. “But I’m not supposed to know that.”
He attended Savannah State College, now Savannah State University, in Savannah, which is the oldest black university in Georgia, where he studied under Rutherford Hayes Strider.
When Dr. Strider left to join the faculty at what was then Morgan State College in 1949, Dr. Stone followed him to Baltimore to Morgan where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1952.
In 1957, he obtained a master’s degree in music theory from what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and his Ph.D. in 1973 in musicology from Catholic University of America. In 1977, he took post-doctoral studies in arranging and film scoring from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
While working on his degrees in the 1950s, Dr. Stone taught instrumental music in such Baltimore public schools as Frederick Douglass High School, Northern High School and elementary schools No. 101 and 139.
“It was great. I could teach during the day and spent the rest of my time focused on my music,” Dr. Stone said in a biographical profile.
Outside of the classroom, he worked on his arrangements and original compositions while performing with jazz combos in the city and in the pit orchestra at the Royal Theater and the Left Bank Jazz Society.
He stayed busy, going to classes during the day, playing piano and trombone at night.
"There were nightclubs all over the place,’” he told The Baltimore Sun in a 2000 interview. “'I was backup for a trombonist at the Royal Theater, so I played there a few times.'”
Dr. Stone recalled the Baltimore of the 1950s for Ms. Schaaf.
“So if you were in West Baltimore, and African American, you functioned either on Pennsylvania Avenue or on Fremont Avenue,” he said. “That’s where the work was, and that’s where the musicians played.”
From 1961 to 1971, Dr. Stone was head of the music department and band director at Delaware State College, now Delaware State University, in Dover, Delaware, where his jazz arrangements during football halftime shows found favor with students.
Returning to Baltimore in 1971, Dr. Stone joined the music faculty at Douglass High School, where his students became “known in the community for their quality, character and musicianship,” according to a biographical profile supplied by Dr. Stone’s family.
During Dr. Stone’s tenure, the Douglass Jazz Band, one of the best in the nation, was invited to perform on the steps of the capitol in Washington.
Dr. Stone left Douglas in 1979 and joined the jazz studies faculty at Howard University while continuing to compose and arrange music for 12 piece big band jazz bands that featured five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones and a rhythm section composed of piano, base, guitar and drums.
He was the founder of the Jazz Repertory Orchestra in Washington and also arranged pieces for the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. His arrangements were also used by Ethel Ennis, the great Baltimore jazz singer who died earlier this year, Billy Eckstine, the swing era band leader and jazz singer, who died in 1993, and the late Thelonious Monk, the jazz pianist and composer, who died in 1982.
“He wrote 25 pieces for us over the years,” said professor Irby, a close friend of 40 years, who is also principal trumpet for the Kennedy Center Musical Theater Orchestra. “Between coordinating student arrangements and his work, the total would be 60 pieces.”
He was the author of his own composition “A Tale of Two Cities.”
“'A Tale of Two Cities’ which is not about Washington and Peking, but about Washington and Baltimore and the I-95 commute that Baltimore-native Stone must make every day; naturally, it’s a blues number,” reported The Washington Post in 1986.
“He was always talking about his commuting experiences,” professor Irby said. “The piece was recorded in 1980 and Wallace Roney, who was a student at Howard and a member of the Jazz Ensemble, played trumpet on the recording, was named top student jazz instrumentalist by DownBeat magazine.”
The Morning Sun
After retiring in 1996, Dr. Stone continued to work tirelessly to preserve and teach jazz history. He wrote and published articles and delivered academic papers to the Music Educators National Conference and the International Association of Jazz Educators.
“He implemented the first jazz arrangers workshop in the Mid-Atlantic area,” according to the biographical profile.
Dr. Stone was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Musician’s Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, and was honored as a Living Legend by the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. He also was a contributor on the history of jazz at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture.
He reserved his greatest praise for his students.
“They are my legacy,” he explained in the 2000 Sun interview. “They have done so many things I never have dreamed of. If I did anything for them, it was to give them confidence in their competence.”
He was a member of Huber Community Life Center, 5700 Loch Raven Blvd., in the city’s Ramblewood neighborhood, where a memorial service will be held at 11:30 Thursday, Oct. 10.
In addition to his daughter, Dr. Stone is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Dorothy Simms, a retired city public schools elementary school teacher; a son, R. Brian Stone of Singapore; two sisters, Geraldine Johnson of Warrensville, Ohio, and Annette Murison of South Miami Heights, Florida; and two grandchildren.