Local Obituaries

Band director Elvis Paschal, who gave pitch-perfect guidance to Miami students, dies at 66

Miami-born musician, educator Elvis Paschal came from a family of educators. His mother, Agenoria Spearman Paschal, was the principal at Lorah Park Elementary. His father, Fletcher Paschal Jr., was assistant principal at American High.
Miami-born musician, educator Elvis Paschal came from a family of educators. His mother, Agenoria Spearman Paschal, was the principal at Lorah Park Elementary. His father, Fletcher Paschal Jr., was assistant principal at American High. Courtesy Erica Paschal-Darling

Mr. Paschal’s opus was simple:

He wanted to turn around a struggling band in a school filled with underserved students. Excelling in music, he believed, would boost their self-esteem and impact every aspect of their lives.

The day tenor saxophonist Elvis Paschal walked into the halls of Miami Edison High in that summer of 1982, the school’s marching band was rated at the bottom of the scale by the Florida Bandmasters’ Association. He told everyone, “This band can get a superior.”

The students didn’t believe him. Why would they? Few believed in their abilities before.

But Paschal, who died Nov. 7 at 66 of cancer, knew.

Paschal, born July 9, 1950, in Miami, and a graduate of Miami Jackson High and the University of Miami, started teaching music at Miami MacArthur South in 1972. After Edison Senior, Paschal went to Miami Edison Middle and American Senior High, where he retired in 2010.

Most of his Brownsville family was involved in education. His mother, Agenoria Spearman Paschal, was the principal at Lorah Park Elementary. His father, Fletcher Paschal Jr., was assistant principal at American High.

Read a story about the Paschal family

Paschal pushed. Students will recall he swayed on the balls of his feet as he called out musical directions — softer here, louder there. He could be unconventional to reach teenagers. When his friendly competitor at North Miami High was using the classical music of Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in the 1980s, Paschal opted for the pop/rock of “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins.

But Edison’s Red Raiders got there. Within a couple years, the school band won its first superior rating. And then won it again.

Under Paschal’s leadership, Edison performed in the Orange Bowl Parade. In 1986, Paschal won the Francisco R. Walker Memorial Teacher of the Year Award for the North Central area and was the overall Dade Teacher of the Year runner-up.

He always wanted to instill in his students a love of music.

Diane Dyes Paschal, on musician husband Elvis Paschal.

Paschal’s success in music seemed destined. Mom was a majorette at Florida A&M University. Dad played in the FAMU jazz band and saxophone in Overtown jazz clubs with icons like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.

Tampa’s alto sax legend, the late Cannonball Adderley, was a frequent house guest. A young Paschal sat transfixed as Adderley chatted and practiced with his father. They all became close friends, said Diane Dyes Paschal, his wife of 42 years and a retired principal of Phillis Wheatley Elementary.

The couple, too, met through music. Dyes Paschal was a cheerleader at Edison when Paschal was a drum major at Jackson High.

In 1997, Paschal played flute and sax on “St. Louis Blues,” an album by Melton Mustafa, a trumpet player in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Paschal also played with the Peter Graves Orchestra, The Ginger Man Jazz Band and Bobby Rodriguez, and he had his own quartet.

“He always wanted to instill in his students a love of music and the importance of being on time and learning to sight read,” Dyes Paschal said. “He wanted them to have the same love of music that he had.”

Paschal is also survived by his daughters Erica Paschal-Darling and Heather Paschal-Binns, three grandchildren, his brother Fletcher Paschal III and sister Agenoria Paschal-Powell. Services were held.

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