School music booster Fignar dies

December 22, 2000

School music booster Fignar dies

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

Educators on Friday mourned the loss of John Fignar Jr., who supervised the music program in Washington County schools for 30 years.

"He believed and he was persistent, and that to me is a real testimony for his life," said B. Marie Byers, former member of the Washington County Board of Education.

Fignar, who died Thursday at Washington County Hospital at age 72, first became known in the community as band director at the former Hagerstown High School, Byers said.

He became the county's supervisor of music in the mid- to late-1960s, a position he held until his retirement in 1992.


As supervisor, Fignar was an avid supporter of music education at the elementary, middle and high school levels, Byers said.

In the late 1970s, Fignar implemented the first Showcase of Bands, an all-county marching band performance that has become an annual event, Byers said.

He also started the county's stringed music program in the early 1960s, said Brad Smith, band director at E. Russell Hicks Middle School. Fignar was Smith's mentor as a student at North Hagerstown High.

"He was a very dedicated musician," said Susie Kunkle, music resource specialist with the Washington County Board of Education.

Fignar, whose specialty was trumpet, also taught private music lessons, Kunkle said.

He was inducted into the Maryland Music Educators' Association Hall of Fame in 1991.

At the time, an MMEA publication listed numerous music programs that Fignar developed or improved, including string instruction beginning in third grade.

The publication said the music program was reorganized under Fignar. The schedules were more flexible, full band periods were added in the middle and high schools and a complete curriculum guide was developed.

Silver Burdett, an instructional material publisher, praised how Fignar's music department used interactive lessons on videotape. The MMEA article quoted Silver Burdett staff as saying, "Terrific use is made of the medium. Lessons are much more likely to hold children's attention than the usual television lesson."

Byers said she and Fignar spoke in the last six months about the need to restore the elementary music education program.

"He understood that music is not just an enjoyable media, but it's a discipline and it's an extension of mathematics. That's a legacy that needs to be recreated," Byers said.

- Staff Writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story

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