Juneau's former 'Mr. Music' dies in Ohio

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Melvin "Mel" Flood, former conductor of the Juneau Symphony and founder of the Mel Flood Big Band, died of brain cancer Monday in Lakeside, Ohio. He turned 60 on Dec. 5.

"He was a nice, nice man - always up, very active and lively," said his friend Caryn Good, a former Juneau resident now living in Ohio.

Good met Flood 18 years ago when she was part of the University Singers, a group Flood led that performed with the symphony. Flood moved to Ohio full time in the summer of 1998, Good said, and they kept in touch.

"He was too young to die," she said.

John d'Armand, a retired member of the University of Alaska Southeast's music department, was a colleague of Flood during most of his tenure. D'Armand was chairman of the search committee that hired Flood in the spring of 1982.

The versatile Flood was hired as assistant professor of music. His duties included directing the symphony, directing choral groups and teaching classes such as fundamentals of music and jazz. He also gave private instruction in woodwinds.

"He was an excellent flutist, and I studied saxophone with him myself when I had to teach it," d'Armand said.

"Mel was an enormously energetic man," d'Armand said. "We had adjacent studios, and talked a great deal. He was referred to sometimes as 'Juneau's Mr. Music.' "

Flood founded the Mel Flood Big Band in which Ron Maas played trumpet. Since those days, the Big Band has changed into the Thunder Mountain Big Band, led by Maas and featuring many of the same members, including Pam and Galen Tromble, Doug Bridges and Jay Hogan, Maas said, but with a different, jazz swing style.

"I owe Mel an awful lot," Maas said. "I thought my music days were over when I ran Taku Lodge, but he came to me and asked me to play in his band and in the symphony and a whole new career began."

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lakeside United Methodist Church. Burial will be on Dec. 27 in Downers Grove, Ill., where Flood grew up and where his parents and brother are buried.

Sylvia Chappell, Flood's companion of many years, is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to an endowment for the flute chair of the Lakeside Summer Symphony.

Flood began performing with the summer symphony in 1969. Donations may be mailed to Lakeside Association, 236 Walnut Avenue, Lakeside, Ohio, 43550.

"He was always so appreciative to the people in Juneau that they continued to send cards and messages," Chappell said. "I read those to him when he could no longer read, and tears would come to his eyes. It meant so much to him."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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