Ferdinand Motley IV, SJU Jazz Band Director of 20 Years, Has Died


Ferdinand Motley IV directing St. John’s Jazz Band on their 30th anniversary performance, in 2017. TORCH PHOTO/ ALEXIA CARVAJALINO

Ferdinand “Freddie” Motley IV, the director of the St. John’s Jazz Band passed away earlier this month on April 18. According to the official Instagram of the St. John’s Jazz Band, Motley was a beloved member of the St. John’s community who served as the group’s music director for more than  20 years. 

“For over 20 years, Motley served as music director of our band, and his unbridled enthusiasm for the music was a constant source of inspiration and guidance for generations of Johnnies,”  Jazz Band wrote in a tribute post to Motley, found on its Instagram page. 

In a comment to the Torch, highschool classmate Andrew M. Harrison said Motley was loved by nearly all that he met. He helped integrate the school district of his hometown Melville, Long Island, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education through his “sunny disposition and magnetic personality.”

“In short,” Harrison wrote, “Freddie liked everybody, and everybody loved Freddie. Mr. Motley was one of the ‘bridge builders’ of our very diverse high school class.”

According to Harrison, following his 1968 graduation from Melville High School, Motley attended Nassau Community College and Hofstra University, pursuing a career as a musical educator, teaching and conducting bands on the collegiate and scholastic level. Motley was also part of two local bands during his youth, The Tempos and The Blades of Grass He was also the drummer for the Long Island-based Suburban Brothers Band. Often, Motley was requested to play for both professional and semi-professional bands on Long Island. 

Motley is survived by  his wife Gloria, son Ferdinand Motley V and will be remembered by the St. John’s community as a whole.

“Whether it was conducting the band or laying down a funky beat behind the drum kit, Mr. Motley made our band a special place to learn and make music,”  Jazz Band wrote on their Instagram. “Rest well, Mr. Motley – and thank you for everything you gave us! We will miss you dearly.”