September 9, 2015
Erich Burnett

Willard Byron “Barnie” Pearson, a professor of trumpet at the Oberlin Conservatory from 1979 until his retirement in 1997, died August 4 at age 74.

A native of Chelsea, Michigan, Pearson graduated from Chelsea High School in 1958 and attended the University of Michigan. He was a member of the school’s Symphony Band, with which he took part in a 15-week goodwill tour of Russia and the Middle East in 1961, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. A year later, he left Michigan to join the Marine Corps, becoming a cornet soloist in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and first trumpet in the White House Orchestra.

Following his service, Pearson performed in the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony, among others.

He returned to his hometown in 1972 and operated a tool and die shop for three years. In 1975 he resumed studies at the University of Michigan, completing his undergraduate degree and a master’s degree, in addition to coursework toward a doctorate. By 1979, he joined the faculty at Oberlin, serving for many years as director of the Brass Guild of Oberlin in addition to his role as professor of trumpet. In 1981 he married horn player Anne Gilbert.

For many years, Pearson continued to play in major ensembles including the Baltimore Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and various Cleveland-area groups. He made two solo recital albums for the Crystal Record label.

After retiring, Pearson returned to Michigan, where he was an avid hunter and fisherman. He was a member of numerous hunting and firearm organizations, as well as the Masons, the American Federation of Musicians, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

In 2011, on the 50th anniversary of his landmark tour to Russia and the Middle East, Pearson was inducted into the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Hall of Fame at the University of Michigan.

Pearson is survived by his fiancée, Julie J. Chambers; a son and daughter; and two grandsons.

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