Dr. L. Richmond Sparks, Resident Guest Conductor/Consultant
Dr. L. Richmond Sparks was the Director of Bands at the University of Maryland.
He received his BME degree from Illinois State University. His MM and DMA degrees were both in performance, and earned from Arizona State University. Prior to coming to Maryland, Dr. Sparks taught high school bands at Illinois Valley Central High School, Chillicothe, IL and at Tempe High School, Tempe, AZ. His bands received numerous awards in jazz, concert and marching settings.
The Illinois High School Association and the Illinois Music Educators’ Association rated his music program in the top ten of the class ‘A’ Illinois high schools. While teaching in Illinois, Sparks served as adjunct Tuba Professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. At that time he performed with the Peoria Symphony and the Prairie Wind Ensemble – made up of professional musicians in the Peoria area. The Tempe High School band was honored with a featured performance at the Midwest National Band and Orchestra Conductors Clinic, Chicago IL.
Later, Sparks became a charter member of the Side Street Strutters Dixieland Band. That band has retired after two and a half decades of employment at Disneyland in California. Sparks performed a short while as a tuba/electric bass player in Walt Disney World, Florida. Dr. Sparks continued his education through the University of Wisconsin and Illinois Central College while teaching in Illinois. He completed his Masters of Music degree at Arizona State University after which he held a teaching assistantship with the bands and the music education program while working toward his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree.
Dr. Sparks signed on with the University of Maryland faculty in the summer of 1984. He began his work as the athletic bands director and music educator in the Department of Music. He has been a leader in the American marching band movement from the time he served as Associate Director of the 1984 XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles. Dr. Sparks has helped organize subsequent all-American bands for national and international events, such as the 50th and the 57th Presidential Inaugurations; the unveiling of the renovated Statue of Liberty during Liberty Weekend; the Centennial Celebration of the United Way at the Rose Bowl and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the nationally televised Special Olympics at Notre Dame Stadium; numerous bowl games across America; and the NFL Europe Super Bowl Games in Scotland, Germany, France and Spain.
In 2005 Dr. Sparks was appointed Director of Bands for the School of Music. Throughout all of his 31 years at Maryland he conducted the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, and University Band in addition to the Marching Band and Basketball Pep Band. He served on the board for the Council of Higher Education in Music in the State of Maryland, and also served twice as President of the Atlantic Coast Conference Band Directors Association. He served on the board of Sudler Foundation, which recognizes outstanding high school bands across America.
Sparks has been honored many times at Maryland. Among those honors are his nomination as Teacher of the Year; induction to Omicron Delta Kappa, National Honorary Society for Outstanding University Professors and Students; Honorary induction to the University of Maryland Alumni Association, and Lettermen’s Club. Dr. Sparks holds over a dozen Governor’s Citations of Excellence in Maryland for his service to High School and Middle School Students. The Lions International Club, District 22-C honored him with their coveted Humanitarian Award in 2002.
In his retirement, Dr. Sparks plans to go back to his roots and work with Middle School band students to insure a solid fundamental beginning to what could be a lifetime of creating and performing music. “We too often see students giving up because they were ‘unsuccessful’ at first learning their instrument . . . They never get to experience the networking and camaraderie that comes with the natural cooperative learning skills; moreover, they will never know how important music is to the mind and soul!”
Dr. Sparks will continue as advocate to Brain Researcher, Dr. Jessica Philips-Silver, who is working hard to quantify our theories that ‘Music Makes us Smarter.’ “We have always known that music makes us smarter, but it has never been quantified. Her documented research is going to change our world – especially how we look at educating our students!”