Longtime Grambling Lab HS band director dies at 86

Charles Albert Young

Resident of Grambling, Louisiana since 1949, Charles Albert Young, died last week at the age of 86 on Oct. 30.

Young became the band director at Grambling Laboratory High Schools in 1967, from which he retired in 1986.  He quickly turned this group into one of the most respected high school bands in the state of Louisiana, representing Grambling in a number of states.

Funeral services for Young were held at Lewis Temple C.M.E. Church on Nov. 10 and the burial will take place at Grambling Memorial Gardens.

Young was born on March 11, 1932, in Langston, Okla., the second of five children of the late George Washington Young and Margaret Marie Moore Young.

He received his primary and secondary education in Langston and received his early Christian nurture at Salters Chapel A.M.E. Church.  He returned to those early life and spiritual lessons throughout his lifespan.

After graduating from Langston High School in 1949, he then enrolled at Grambling College and was enlisted in the Air Force on March 24, 1952.  He later returned to college and earned a bachelor of science degree in secondary education in August 1957.  He was a “lifelong learner,” earning a master of music education degree from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Ill. in 1961 as well as additional hours from Grambling. He also attended numerous workshops in the United States and Switzerland.

Once Young came to Grambling, he never left.  He united with Lewis Temple C.M.E. Church, where he remained a faithful and active member until his death.  He was a longtime member of the Steward Board, a former class leader, and lay leader.  In his retirement years, he became the church’s organist.

Young had a lengthy and illustrious career as a music educator, in which he created impressive graded band programs and shaped a multitude of student musicians.  His teaching career began at Coleman High School in Gibsland, La. He became the band director at Grambling Laboratory Schools in 1967, from which he retired in 1986.  He quickly turned this group into one of the most respected high school bands in the state of Louisiana.

“Mr. Young was a visionary teacher who used band lessons to expose his students to different cultures and life lessons,” Donyetta Davis Alexander, GHS Class of 1986, said. “I can’t think of another teacher that took students all over Louisiana and even to Texas and Oklahoma to perform and compete in music competitions.  Because of Mr. Young, I have a love of all music genres because he exposed our band to a variety of music.

Mr. Young was also very patriotic…he had a strong love of this country.  I can remember when we would play the national anthem on Friday night before football; he would frequently become very emotional toward the end of the song.  

Because of Mr. Young, I am retired from the US Air Force and I also feel that same feeling every time I hear our National Anthem. Thank you Mr. Young for your sacrifice and vision…I know you say you don’t need rest, so I’m sure you have already started a new jazz band in heaven”.

His musical leadership extended into creating and managing popular student gigging bands including Soul Pride and Polo. The most famous group was Leech and the Gang who opened for professional groups such as The Temptations, Bloodstone, the Barkays, George & Gwen McCrae, Ray, Goodman & Brown, and Sister Sledge.  After opening for The Temptations and Bloodstone on July 3, 1975, the group was offered professional recording contracts from Stax Record Company in Memphis, Tennessee.   As one article said, “he [felt] comfortable around music and it kept him going..”