1908 – 1995
Russell S. Howland was born in Novinger, Missouri, and lived in Fresno from 1947 until his death in 1995. For twenty-seven of those years he served as a music professor at Fresno State, where he received the Distinguished Professor Award, and performed in the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award. He was also a conductor, a composer (including a commission by the New York Philharmonic in 1944), and an arranger.
As a young man, Howland was a professional woodwind player in New York City. He soon found what appeared to be a glamourous life unrewarding to him, so he moved on to earn degrees at the University of Illinois and then began his music teaching career at public schools in Wisconsin and Colorado. Howland then began instructing at the University of Michigan, but was heavily recruited by Dr. Arthur Berdahl to come to California State University, Fresno (then called Fresno State College). He became known throughout the Valley as THE authority on all aspects of concert music making: band, orchestra, woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion. Later he learned the harp and started the harp program at Fresno State.
In his role as a conductor, Howland was asked to lead many school honor bands and orchestras over his teaching career. He also presented clinics and workshops nationwide, from Boston to Hawaii and was one of the most highly regarded woodwind teachers in the U.S. at that time.
Howland was awarded California Music Educators Keynote Award, Outstanding Music Educator, Hall of Fame in 1975, Top Ten Most Outstanding Music Teachers in the United States and Canada in 1974, Distinguished Professor Award at CSU Fresno, in 1973 among many other awards, workshops, and performances locally, statewide, and nationally.
A founder of the Clarinet Choir movement in 1950, Howland saw that quality concert music did not exist for this ensemble so he began arranging pieces for it. He created over 100 arrangements while at CSU Fresno. He also created, performed in, and wrote for the Fresno Saxophone Quartet for 40 years. He later arranged music for the flute choir. Some of these compositions for Saxophone Quartet, Clarinet Choir, and Flute Choir are used throughout the United States.
Mr. Howland’s performances also included the Fresno Philharmonic where he was Principal Bass for 40 years, also serving one year as Principal Oboe, and on several occasions subbing for last minute emergencies on oboe, clarinet or saxophone with the Philharmonic.
Russell Howland was known nationwide in the area of concert, or “classical,” music as an outstanding musician, music educator, pedagogue, composer and arranger, most of this recognition due to the work he did for the people he loved in this Valley.