John Thrasher, founder of the Arizona Winds Concert Band, a West Valley institution based in Glendale, died on May 1.
The band was founded in 1974 and continues to be active today. The Arizona Winds will conclude its 2022-23 concert season with a performance in Surprise on Sunday, June 4.
The band announced Thrasher’s passing on its Facebook page.
“It is with deep sorrow that we mourn the passing of John Thrasher on May 1, 2023, after a lengthy illness,” the post stated. “The original GCC night band was first formed in 1974 which he later converted to a community concert band, volunteering his time and energy to bring great music to Glendale and the surrounding areas.”
The band currently still has a few original members who also played under his direction while at Glendale Community College, according to the announcement.
The Arizona Winds will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.
“We are heartbroken that he won’t be able to celebrate the band’s accomplishments over the years,” the band’s social media post stated.
Thrasher grew up in Prescott in the early 1960s, and attended Northern Arizona University where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1965. He taught band at Prescott High School 1965-67, Cortez High School, Phoenix College 1967-70, and Maricopa College.
He received his master's degree in music education from NAU in 1970 and immediately began his years of instruction at Glendale Community College, where he was band director for 29 years. During this time he served as College Band Directors National Association president for two years.
After leaving GCC, he was a band director with the Deer Valley Unified School District from 1999 through 2008.
The Arizona Winds Concert Band for many years performed free concerts at Cactus High School in Glendale.
After retiring from music education, Thrasher unsuccessfully ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in Congressional District 2 in 2006.
The Arizona Winds notes Thrasher and his wife Jackie moved to Hawaii where he “spent the remainder of his years living in paradise.”
He passed the Arizona Winds baton over to Glendale resident Lt. Col. Rich Shelton USAF (Ret.), who continues as conductor to this day.