“As a youngster, there was a very enthusiastic band director at my school. It was easy to respond to him. So I walked into his office one day and said that I was interested in the band and, of course, he was all open arms…. He was a terrific person who started a great venture in my life.” This was the launch of Jack Fellers’ musical life. He learned French Horn playing in several bands in his high school years in Columbiana, Ohio. In high school he also discovered his love of science, leading him to major in Chemistry at Bowling Green University. But, despite leaving Columbiana and heading off to college, he didn’t leave his music behind. He brought his horn with him and won a slot in the Bowling Green University concert band, mixing band rehearsals into his chemistry studies. After college Jack went on to a successful career, first at Ford Motor Company, and then in 1971 at the University of Tennessee Department of Chemical, Metallurgical and Polymer Engineering, shifting in 1984 to UT’s Materials Science and Engineering as a professor.
For decades Jack taught, researched, published and gave lectures in such far flung places at Vancouver, Canada and Cairo, Egypt. In the midst of a busy career, music would pop up from time to time for him. On one of his international journeys he picked up a trumpet. He learned to play it, but eventually put it aside as he occupied himself with expanding his professorial work and raising a family of four kids with his wife, Betty Jo, in Knoxville.
Jack retired in 2004, which gave him time to again take up his musical interests in earnest. While actively volunteering in the community and working to get his musical skills back in shape, he suffered a setback when his wife, Betty Jo, passed away in 2010. After a few years, and emerging from his grief, he pondered playing the trumpet yet again. “Oh yeah, be patient with yourself and try it,” he told himself at the time. So, he took his own advice and he did try, and he was patient, and, as he put it, “it turned out to be just absolutely another dimension in music that’s been really wonderful for me.” He says of the trumpet, “I completely enjoy it.” Currently Jack is playing in two musical groups. In Tellico Village, Tenn., he’s playing in a swing band, the Top Notes, and he plays in the house band at his church. He also serves on the Board of Advisors for the University of Tennessee School of Music.
Jack volunteers as a music teacher at the Joy of Music School. He teaches piano in weekly lessons to two students. He goes above and beyond volunteering, as he supports the School with donations as well. Jack’s belief in the power of music to transform lives is what drives him. He remembers what music did for him as a child, and realizes how important it is in the lives of young people today.