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Triplett’s Legacy Lives on at Northwest

Glenn Triplett, director emeritus of Northwest Mississippi Community College, seated with his wife Becky, visited with band directors (left to right) Jeff Triplett, assistant director of bands, John Ungurait, director of bands and Justin Robinson, assistant director of bands during Homecoming festivities in September 2014. Triplett, who was the author of the college’s fight song and alma mater, spent 26 years leading the bands at Northwest.  (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)
Glenn Triplett, director emeritus of Northwest Mississippi Community College, seated with his wife Becky, visited with band directors (left to right) Jeff Triplett, assistant director of bands, John Ungurait, director of bands and Justin Robinson, assistant director of bands during Homecoming festivities in September 2014. Triplett, who was the author of the college’s fight song and alma mater, spent 26 years leading the bands at Northwest. (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)

It could be said that when Glenn Triplett passed away on Aug. 27, Northwest lost a legend. But the retired “Director Emeritus” of the college’s band program left an indelible mark on the students he taught, the department he worked in and most of all, the history of the college.

Triplett spent 26 years leading the bands at Northwest, and was the co-author of the college’s alma mater and wrote its fight song. He served as chairman of the Fine Arts division and brought the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity to Northwest. Today, Northwest is the last two-year college to have a chapter of the fraternity. His son Jeff serves as assistant director of bands and teaches music classes at Northwest.

Barnett Glenn Triplett, known as Tripp to his family, colleagues and friends, was born and raised in the small town of Macon, in Noxubee County. According to Jeff, he started playing trumpet in third grade in school band. “He came from a musical family. My dad’s mother Eloise Triplett was an accomplished pianist, and my dad’s sisters were both musical. My Aunt Shirley sang in the choir while at Mississippi University for Women, and my Aunt Constance was an accomplished oboist,” Jeff said.

After graduating Macon High School, Triplett came to Northwest to study music education. “He was in some theatre productions here and at Southern Miss and was in a group at Northwest called the ‘Moonlighters’- they played gigs around. My dad had a great singing voice. He spent many years singing in the choir at church,” Jeff said.

After graduating from Northwest in the class of 1957, Triplett went to The University of Southern Mississippi, where he met his wife, the former Rebecca Ramsey of Jackson. Mrs. Triplett was also a music education major and an accomplished pianist. She taught at Northwest at the same time Triplett did. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Triplett taught at Leakesville High School. He returned to Northwest as band director in 1962 until 1979. In 1965, both he and Mrs. Triplett earned their master’s degrees from The University of Mississippi. The Tripletts began teaching at Mississippi College, where they remained for seven years before returning to Northwest. Triplett retired from Northwest in 1993, but taught music appreciation at the DeSoto Center for five years afterward.

“I basically grew up on the Northwest campus and in the band hall,” Jeff said. Jeff was a member of the Northwest band from 1985-1987 when he was a student at Northwest. “It was pretty easy being in his band, because he never singled me out. He treated me like anybody else. It was fun to be in his band. He was a great dad. He taught me a lot of practical things about living that make life easier and simpler, and that still means a lot to me,” Jeff said.

Both his musical and teaching ability are legendary. Jeff recalled a story of when he was about age 13. “I was listening to Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ in my room, and my dad opened the door and asked what it was. He said, ‘I’m going to arrange this for the band.’ He sat down and arranged it. The band played it for years when we would win a game,” Jeff said.

John Ungurait, Northwest director of bands, was also a student of Triplett’s from 1983-1985. “We were all in awe of him, all the time. He was so much bigger than life,” Ungurait said. Ungurait said that Triplett was an authority figure, but also a father figure. “We just called him Mr. Triplett to his face, but his nickname in the band was ‘Daddy T.’ That ‘father figure’ is what I remember about being in the program. It was always, ‘ Yes, you are going to do it my way, but realistically, I care about you.’ He knew how to balance being in charge but he was still able to show that loving, caring side,” Ungurait said.

He recalled how on one occasion his mother could not reach him on the dorm phone, and called Triplett, who told her to call him anytime she needed her son. He also remembered a time when he got very ill, and the Tripletts paid to take him to the doctor and get medicine. They took him to a friend’s parent’s home to be cared for. Today, Ungurait’s son James is a member of the Northwest band. “We are carrying on the Triplett tradition,” Ungurait said, smiling.

Harry “Mike” Warren, a band alumnus from the 1981-1983 class, spoke about the influence Triplett had with his students. “Mr. Triplett really saved a lot of young people’s lives. He was a mentor, a leader and the father figure you needed in college. He would get on you when you were doing wrong and praise you when you were doing great,” Warren said. “He was a wonderful man who took care of his people. If you were sick or injured, he would come and check on you.”

“My dad invested himself in many students throughout his career. I always had an awareness of that as a kid. I saw that happen. He never did anything that compromised or sacrificed his family, but he was very much involved and helpful to his students,” Jeff said.

Susanne Spencer VanDyke, director of choral activities knew Triplett when she was a student at Northwest. “He was a formidable presence to me but the longer I was at Northwest, the more I noticed how he and Mrs. Triplett invested themselves in us. We had meals in their home, casual conversations in the halls of the music building – always pointing us to new music and composers to discover,” VanDyke said.

She came back to teach and worked on the faculty with Triplett during his last year as band director. “For me, his mentoring increased each year of his retirement. He would drop off recordings of one of his beloved composers, John Rutter of England. Many times his recommendation wound up in my choral concerts. My respect and high regard for him increased through the years as he and Becky began inviting the music faculty to lunch in their home. The most valuable gift to me was his encouragement of my teaching,” VanDyke said. “A compliment from him after a concert was pure gold.”

VanDyke said that the Northwest Singers concert in Spring 2016 will be dedicated to Triplett. They will sing “Requiem” by John Rutter in his honor.

Triplett served as president of the Northwest Alumni Association, as province governor for Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and was president of the Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity. He was named Northwest Alumnus of the Year in 1994 and served as past president of the Senatobia Lion’s Club and Sycamore Arts. In 2011, he received the prestigious Orpheus Award from Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He was known throughout the state of Mississippi as an adjudicator and clinician.

Triplett is survived by his wife of 55 years, Becky, son, Jeff and daughter-in-law Laura, a church pianist and music teacher. He has four granddaughters – Madison Grace, age 15, Aubrey Ann, age 14, Laura Elisabeth, age 13 and Margaret Elaine, age 6. Triplett’s three eldest granddaughters are all musicians.

A scholarship endowment in Triplett’s memory has been established through the Northwest Foundation. For information on how to donate, contact the Foundation Office at 662-560-1112 or email Sybil Canon, associate vice president of Development and Special Projects at srcanon@northwestms.edu.


Article courtesy Northwest Mississippi Community College

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