The Naval Academy's Music Man

by Mavis Clark

Annapolis! The U.S. Naval Academy! Crisp, white uniforms! Hats joyously tossed in the air at graduation! These are the images most of us see each year, but there is among us one who has witnessed the event in person 25 consecutive times:

With a dual degree fresh from the Conservatory in piano and conducting, Barry Talley left Oberlin in 1965 for the Peabody Institute, acquiring a master's degree two years later. His first job as music director at the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore was followed by similar positions at the Baltimore Comic Opera Company, the Harford Choral Society, the Gilman Summer Music Theatre, and the Church of the Good Shepherd.

In 1971, just three years later, Barry joined the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, accepting what he anticipated to be a short-term position as assistant music director before moving on to a professional performance career-"the metropolitan music thing." Fate stepped in, however, in the form of another Obie-director of musical activities Donald C. Gilley '28-who chose to retire just a year after Barry arrived. The baton was handed once again to a Conservatory graduate.

That was 25 years ago.

John Barry Talley Since then, Barry gained a doctoral degree, published Secular Music in Colonial Annapolis, and learned to combine his remarkable musical talents with Navy-style discipline, earning the affection and respect of the midshipmen-and midshipwomen-who call him "Doc." He attributes his success in developing one of the nation's most distinguished choirs to studying as a protégé at Oberlin with one of the world's great choral directors, Robert Fountain-and to an Oberlin College calculus professor who, not so subtly, encouraged him to "focus your attention on those things you're doing well."

"Doc" today leads the Academy's Protestant and Catholic choruses and the Men's Glee Club and its smaller divisions: the Skius, the Barbershop Quartet, and a country and western group. The U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club presents 70 to 80 concerts a year, including performances for U.S. presidents, the Vatican, St. Peters, Westminster Abbey, Winchester Cathedral, and the New York Yacht Club. At "Christmas in Washington," the singers annually present Handel's Messiah, a Glee Club tradition for more than 50 years.

Life for Barry is not all rehearsing and touring. He presents numerous lecture concerts for national, state, and local music and historical societies, and he, his wife Marcia, and their two daughters enjoy sailing and occasionally find their way up the eastern seaboard to Long Island Sound. Among his many awards are the Navy's Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Baltimore Federal Executive Board's award for Excellence in Management, and the Academy for Television Arts & Sciences award for Excellence in Musical Direction. For a man who was born and reared in a tiny, rural, western Kentucky town, and who discovered almost by accident at age 5 the high notes on the piano were to the right and the low notes to the left, John Barry Talley brings credit to Oberlin, to Peabody, and to the United States Navy.