NAfME Past-President Dr. James Mason 1929 – 2014

JAMES MASONJames Albert Mason 1929 ~ 2014


Dr. James Albert Mason, a past-president of the National Association for Music Education (when it was still named MENC) has passed away at the age of 85. He served the association in that capacity from 1978-1980.

Dr. Mason was born in Eureka, Utah on January 4, 1929 to Rolla N. and Mary Garn Mason and died on May 15, 2014.

He was the founding director of the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University. During his forty years at BYU, he served as the chairman of the Music Department and as dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications for eleven years. As dean he was able to realize a dream he had for the university- to build an innovative art museum. This required gaining permission to proceed with this venture as well as fundraising without using any university or church funds.  After completion of the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, he was appointed its founding director. Some of the exhibits were: BYU’s treasures, art from the Vatican Museums, Chinese museums, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dr. Mason grew up in Springville across the street from the art museum which had an influence on him throughout his life. His high school years were dominated by music. His studies at Brigham Young University were interrupted to serve in the Armed Forces during the Korean War. He received his bachelors and masters degrees from BYU and his doctoral degree from Arizona State University. While playing the French horn in the university’s orchestra he met and married Lynne Galbraith, a violinist. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

He began teaching music in Nebo School district and after completing his master’s degree was hired by Brigham Young University High School. Five years later he joined the University’s Music Department. He was given an extended leave for professional activities. After serving as editor of the Utah Music Educator, he accepted a job in Chicago as editor of the Instrumentalist, a monthly music magazine. He left to complete his doctoral degree.

While teaching at BYU, he wrote News of Research column for the Journal of Research in Music Education. He was elected president of the Western Division MENC and some years later was elected national president of MENC, the National Organization of Music Educators with more than 100,000 members.

Dr. Mason taught as a visiting professor at Northwestern University, Indiana University, University of Texas, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He lectured at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China and was the American speaker at the International Conference on Music Education in Warsaw, Poland. He served on a number of boards including the Music Education Research Council in Washington, D.C., The Barlow Foundation for Music, The Music Council in New York City, the Music Industry Council in Chicago, the Presser Foundation in Philadelphia, Utah’s Statehood Centennial Commission, Utah Opera Board, and Utah Museum Council. He was the co-founder of the Utah Valley Symphony. During these years of service he received many awards and recognitions consisting of an award from the Israeli Government, two awards from Educational Press Association of America, the San Francisco Art Critics Award, the Utah Outstanding Music Educators Award, the Utah Museum Association Award, the Reed Smoot Award, the Arthur Watkins Award, the Franklin S. Harris Award, the BYU Alumni Award and the Life-time Achievement Award from the Mormon Arts Committee. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America.

Dr. Mason served in many callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition to teaching he served as elder’s quorum president in three different wards, high councilor in three stakes, bishop in two wards, and on the General Music Committee. He served on an advisory committee for the development of the LDS Conference Center. Although James achieved international recognition for his professional work, his proudest accomplishment was his dear family.

He is survived by his wife of fifty-eight years and his three wonderful children: Julia Johns Davis (Kevin Johns, deceased, and Patrick Davis), Margo Turner (David) and Christopher Mason (Mican), fifteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his two sisters Shirley Beardall and Elaine Rothwell, and a granddaughter, Angela.

Funeral Services will be held on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 11:00am at the Sunset Heights 6th Ward, 500 South 600 West, Orem. Friends may call Wednesday, May 21st from 6-8pm at the Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State, Orem and Thursday from 9:30 -10:30am prior to the funeral.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the BYU Museum of Art. Condolences may be sent to the family at