John Yesulaitis (d.12/7/05)
We note with great sadness the death on Pearl Harbor Day of John Yesulaitis, former Director of Bands at UNC. Major Y, as he was known to thousands of students, was a larger-than-life force at the University and beyond, thanks to his leadership and his extensive advocacy on behalf of superior performance of band literature throughout our state. His service as a teacher and superb bandsman lives on in the work of the many musicians whose lives were touched and influenced by the sterling examples he set. As it happens, Major Y was the subject of the first “review” by the compiler of this news item, published as a letter to the editor of the Daily Tar Heel in the mid-’60s, so we CVNCers, too, are indebted to Major Y and join his countless friends around the world in extending sympathies to his family. The obituary that is reprinted below appeared in several commercial papers in the Triangle area.
CHAPEL HILL – John Yesulaitis, 89, died Wednesday, December 7, at UNC Hospitals. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Pat; his daughters, Mary Deutsch and Joan Yesulaitis; and one grandson, A.J. Deutsch. In 1964, he moved to Chapel Hill, where he became Director of Bands at the University of North Carolina, retiring in 1989. In 1975, he was named “one of the 10 most outstanding musical educators in the U.S. and Canada” by Teacher Magazine. Known affectionately by students and friends as “Major Y,” he also served one term as president of the American Bandmasters Association and was given an honorary life membership.
Born in Coaldale, PA, he earned a B.S. in Music Education from the University of Maryland and a Master of Music from the Catholic University of America. He joined the U.S. Army Band in 1936, rising to the rank of captain. (He was given the rank of major at retirement.) During World War II, he was conductor of the 7th and 77th Infantry Division Bands and served under combat conditions in Leyte, Guam, Okinawa, and with the occupation forces in Japan and Korea. He was awarded the Bronze Medal for outstanding service. After the war, he became associate director of the U.S. Air Force Band and was the founder and director of the Strolling Strings, a musical ensemble that performed regularly at the State Department and at the White House during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.
He was a member of the Catholic Student Center parish in Chapel Hill, where he served as Eucharistic minister and greeter. The wake [took] place there on Friday, December 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. (rosary at 6:30 to 7 p.m.) and the funeral [is] at the same location on Saturday, December 10 at 10 a.m.
Contributions in his memory can be made to the UNC Catholic Student Center, the Guatemala Student Support Group (telephone 968-3052) or the charity of choice.
Arrangements are with Walker’s Funeral Home, Chapel Hill.
* * *
For an additional tribute, published in the N&O, see [inactive 1/08].
Compiled by John W. Lambert (posted 12/10/05)


Cary Thinks Big – and Regionally, too – As It Ponders Arts Facilities
On November 29, the Town of Cary held its second public meeting to discuss proposals that may lead to the creation of a significant arts district, to be located between the Page Walker Arts & History Center and the old Cary Elementary School. On the table are a series of ideas that, if funded wholly or even in part, will lead to a major enhancement in terms of arts facilities for Cary and the region.
According to reports received by CVNC, the consultants spent a good deal of time explaining their assessment process, which included such elements as market size/growth/demographics, a facility inventory for entire Triangle, comparisons with cultural districts in similar markets, and interviews with performing arts groups. Their conclusion was that there is a gap in “mid-sized” (c.1000-seat) facilities for arts in Raleigh-Cary area and sufficient demand locally to warrant a facility of some sort in Cary. They also reported that the Town has a number of useful assets downtown that can serve the creation of a cultural district and that there is reasonable expectation that commercial development around the cultural core is achievable in the district.
The ideas, detailed at parks/civicculturalarts.htm [inactive 10/09], include the following options:
1. Refurbish the old elementary school as a “community arts center” serving mostly visual arts. This would appear to be a natural first step, given the availability of the building and the desire for a teaching-heavy facility. The CAC would encompass galleries, studios, classrooms, a 300-400-seat performance space, and room for growth (inasmuch only 27K of 42K square-feet of potentially-available space is being discussed).
2. Build a new “Center for the Arts” (CFA) somewhere on Academy Street. The proposal includes a 60K-square-foot facility with 1100-1200 seats on two levels – orchestra seating and a balcony (making it possible to close off the balcony for more intimate space) – plus theater facilities, a rehearsal room, and a large atrium for public use. A public-private partner arrangement will be critical, but goundwork for this may be in the works in the form of a Cary Community Foundation, currently being organized. The price-tag may be $32-$51 million to build it and a total of $65 million when it is outfitted.
3. Create an Art Park – perhaps modeled on the NCMA’s “Picture This” – to include a promenade, public art, and a modest amphitheater. This facility would likely be somewhere in the lower Academy Street area where the Town already owns land.
4. Create a “Digital Media Center” of 4000-5000 square-feet in the soon-to-be vacated Town personnel offices behind the Cary Library. This too would require a partnership or corporate sponsorship and would perhaps become a facility for inspiring youth (and others) to do work with digital resources. (The consultants call this a “visual arts center of the future”)
5. Modify and rework other existing downtown facilities: revamp the Page Walker Arts & History Center (to provide more gallery and history-interpretation space), devote Jordan Hall to a single purpose (perhaps ceramics), convert the Herb Young Center to an athletic-recreation facility only, salvage and relocate the historic Waldo Rood house as a welcome center and interpretative building, and perhaps convert the existing fire administration building for use as arts offices or arts incubation space.
The “cultural district” plan surfaced with two options:
Option 1 is a “cultural necklace” linking existing facilities along Academy Street. In this model, the CFA would be close to the old elementary school. Parking and transportation issues loom, but the advantages include mass and proximity.
Option 2 is a two-node design wherein the CFA and CCA are on opposite ends of Academy Street. Presumably the CFA would be sited across the street from Herb Young on what is now a mixed residential and office/institutional block. Parking is available, and transportation issues are less severe than in option 1, but the two main facilities would be 15-20 minutes apart for pedestrians.
The total bill for the cultural district would be $72 million or more.
CVNC attended the first of these meetings, in September. A follow-up to the November session will be held in mid-January, when the Town Council will begin to consider the proposals. Large projects of this type take time and rarely come to fruition as initially proposed, but the ideas being floated in Cary hold great promise for all who value the arts as essential components of civilized life.
CVNC is indebted to members of the Concert Singers of Cary for information contained in this report.
Compiled by John W. Lambert (posted 12/6/05)