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September 24, 2004 :: No. 42

Founding Chair of Cal State Fullertonís Music Department Dies

Joseph W. Landon, emeritus professor and founding chair of music at Cal State Fullerton, died September 21 of natural causes. The Fullerton resident was 89 years old.

Landon joined the university faculty in 1960 — the first year classes were held on the campus’s permanent site — and served as department chair until 1969. From the outset and through 1981, he also served as coordinator of music education.

Under his direction, the music faculty adopted a competency-based curriculum for the preparation of teachers that attracted national and international attention. As a result, CSUF was designated by the Music Educators National Conference in the mid-1970s as one of only 22 colleges and universities in the United States having “an innovative and exemplary preservice curriculum” for music education majors. Since then, most college- and university-based music education programs have incorporated the same type of approach.

Also under his leadership, the Music Department was granted accreditation in 1966 by the National Association of Schools of Music — the youngest college or university department of music to receive the recognition.

Professionally, Landon served as president of the California Music Educators Association. One of the highlights of his tenure was serving under Walt Disney during the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley as the event pageant’s music organizing chairman.

In addition, he was chair of the NOTABLES, an organization of former university professors and leading music educators in California; chairman and member of the State Textbook Committee in Music; member of a 12-person delegation of professional music educators to Vietnam in 1993, appointed by the Citizen Ambassador Program of People to People International; and project coordinator for the IDEAL (Interdisciplinary Education through the Arts and Language) program, which involved more than 10,000 elementary school children in 15 schools in Orange County.

Landon’s published books included “Clinical Practice in Music Education, a Guide to Field Experiences in the Preparation of Teachers,” “Leadership for Learning in Music Education” and “How to Write Learning Activity Packages for Music Education.”

Among his honors were: the Irene Schoepfle Award as outstanding music educator of the year in Orange County; outstanding professor for the College of the Arts; Outstanding Service Award from the Orange County Arts Alliance; and Special Recognition Award from the IDEAL Foundation for service in arts education.

Landon began his musical career as a violin soloist with the Pasadena Symphony at age 15 and was concertmaster for the Occidental College Community Symphony at age17. He played with Southern California symphonies and studied conducting. During World War II, he played with the NBC/CBS Armed Forces Radio Service Orchestra under Meredith Wilson. Prior to joining Cal State Fullerton, he was director of music education for the San Jacinto and San Bernardino County school districts.

At CSUF, he also served as interim chair of the Humanities Division and chair of the University Personnel and Teacher Education Committee. He was a member of the Academic Senate, SEC-TEP (Secondary-Teacher Education Program) Education Council and the College of the Arts Advisory Board.

“Joe was a dedicated musician — dedicated to excellence and was an outstanding colleague,” says James D. Young, emeritus professor and founding chair of theatre at Cal State Fullerton. “He was involved in teacher education in music and was interested in seeing that young people had access to music.”

Although he retired in 1981, Landon and his late wife, Sibyl, maintained close ties to and an interest in the university, including creating the Landon Founder’s Scholarship for strings. Together, they left a legacy in the form of a planned gift — the Joseph W. and Sibyl H. Landon Memorial Grant — to the Music Department, which will endow a scholarship for students who play stringed instruments. Last year, Landon donated $25,000 to the university’s new Performing Arts Center, currently under construction.

“He was so good at establishing a direction for the Music Department,” says Jerry Samuelson, dean of the College of the Arts. “Joe had a great vision and made really significant and wonderful faculty hires. He was so interested in the new building. He was at the groundbreaking last year. My hope was that he would live to see the opening. He would have been amazed and proud.”

Always the teacher, Landon also continued his interest in music education, volunteering several days a week at Acacia Elementary School in Fullerton teaching music to youngsters.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Occidental College and his master’s from Claremont Graduate School. He earned his educational doctorate from USC.

Landon is survived by 20 nieces, nephews and cousins from California and Colorado. Plans for a memorial service are pending. Donations may be made to the Joseph W. and Sibyl H. Landon Memorial Grant, care of the Cal State Fullerton University Advancement Foundation, 2600 Nutwood Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831.

Photos:   A high-resolution photo of Joseph W. Landon can be downloaded from the university’s website at
Media Contacts:  

Gail Matsunaga, Public Affairs, 657-278-4851

Elizabeth Champion, College of the Arts, 657-278-2434