Marching Mountaineers & First “North Carolina’s Band of Distinction” Band Director Passes

Last Updated on January 9, 2018 7:54 pm

A long time band director at Appalachian State passed away on Saturday.

Joe Phelps, 73, of Vilas, NC, passed away on January 6, 2018 at The Foley Center in Blowing Rock, according to Hampton Funeral Service.

In Mr. Phelps obituary:

He became Professor of Trumpet and Assistant Director of Bands at Appalachian State in 1971 and enjoyed a full-time career of 30 years supplemented with part-time teaching through the Fall of 2017.

For the first 16 years, he was the director of the Symphonic Band and the Marching Mountaineers. During that time period, the marching band grew from 80 to more than 220 members and became known as “North Carolina’s Band of Distinction.”

Phelps started and directed the Trumpet Choir. In addition, he played in faculty brass ensembles and was a soloist with the Appalachian Symphony Orchestra and the University Wind Ensemble, along with many guest appearances with high school bands throughout the state.

Among the awards and honors Phelps received were Appalachian’s Chancellor’s Award of Merit, the Distinguished Service Award from the Appalachian Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Teacher Award in the Hayes School of Music in 2001. In November of 2017, Phelps was elected to the North Carolina Bandmasters Association “Hall of Fame.”

Plans for a future Celebration of Life for Joe Phelps are forthcoming and will be announced through the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University.

Online condolences may be sent to the Phelps family at


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