Open main menu

John Barry Talley (born July 22, 1943 in Paducah, Kentucky) was a musical director at the U.S. Naval Academy.



Talley grew up on a farm near Princeton, Kentucky. While attending high school, he studied piano at Bethel College and upon graduation, enrolled in the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1965 with a major in piano performance. He remained at Oberlin for an additional year to complete a second major in choral conducting. His Oberlin teachers included Beryl Ladd and Joseph Schwartz (piano), Haskell Thomson (organ), and Hugh Johnson and Robert Fountain (choral conducting).

Barry next attended the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, holding successive fellowships in music theory, piano, and choral conducting. After earning his Master of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory in 1967, he began a doctoral program, completing course and residency requirements by 1971. His Baltimore teachers included Leo Mueller (orchestral conducting), Norman Johnson, Gregg Smith, Ray Robinson and Theodore Morrison (choral conducting). While in Baltimore, Barry also held a number of professional positions including organist/choirmaster of several churches, and serving as conductor of an oratorio society, a German singing society, two music theatre troupes, and choral programs in three private schools—Bryn Mawr, Boy's Latin, and Garrison Forest.


In 1971 he accepted a staff position at the U.S. Naval Academy as Assistant Director of Musical Activities with responsibilities as organist-choirmaster, director of the Academy's music theatre program, and Glee Club. The following year, Talley was promoted to Director of Musical Activities,[1] a position he held for thirty-six years until his retirement in 2006.[2]

The schedule of the Naval Academy was demanding, and work on a doctoral degree was suspended for a few years but in 1983, Barry received the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from Peabody. His dissertation,Secular Music in Colonial Annapolis, 1745-56 [3] was received with such enthusiasm by the scholarly community that it was subsequently published in book form by the University of Illinois Press as part of their acclaimed series, Music in American Life.[4] Although the musical ensembles of the Naval Academy consumed the bulk of his time, Barry continued his involvement with colonial American music through lectures, performances, and restagings of historic musical events, from balls at the Maryland State House to ballad operas at St Johns College, presentations for the Supreme Court Historical Society and the Library of Congress, Maryland 350 celebrations, US Constitution bicentennial events, and various symposiums concerned with eighteenth-century American Culture.[5][6]

Under Talley's direction, the Naval Academy Glee Club rose to a position of national prominence, appearing in many of America's concert halls including New York's Town Hall and Lincoln Center, Washington's Kennedy Center and Dallas's Meyerson Hall; cathedrals, churches schools and colleges throughout the USA, and European tours that included England, Belgium, Sicily and Italy. Under his direction, the Glee Club appeared in more than one hundred nationally televised programs, and were featured on NBC's Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America, the CBS Morning Show, numerous appearances on the Kennedy Center Honors, several U.S. Presidential Inaugural Galas, and a twenty-year run on NBC/TNT's annual Christmas in Washington.[7] In the course of these performances, Talley and the Glee Club performed with many of America's leading performers from stage and screen, representing the full range of music in America, from Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera to legends of pop, rock and country music. Many of these events included the President of the United States in the audience,[8] and in the course of his career, Barry and his singers performed for virtually every president from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. A favorite at the Academy is the annual Christmas performance of Handel's Messiah,[9] featuring the men and women of the Naval Academy, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and professional soloists, often drawn from the ranks of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Several of these performances have been televised throughout the country[which?] on PBS stations, and abroad on the US Armed Forces Network.

The Naval Academy music program grew substantially under Talley's guidance. New ensembles were created that reflected an expanding interest in music and the changing demographics of the school. These included a symphony orchestra, a pipe and drum corps, a gospel choir and a women's glee club. Additions to the program included an annual spring oratorio, expanding the choral repertoire to include major works for chorus and orchestra such as Requiems by Verdi, Mozart, and Brahms, symphonies with chorus by Beethoven, Mahler, and Vaughan Williams and other major works such as Mendelssohn's Elijah and Haydn's Creation.[10] In 1992 he established and acquired funding for The Distinguished Artists Series which brings performers of international stature to the Academy's Alumni Hall, performing for the Brigade of Midshipmen and the Annapolis community.[11] During the final third of Dr Talley's tenure, the Glee Club began to appear with major Symphony Orchestras as featured guest artists; these included the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and Columbus Symphony, and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.[12]

Barry was an ardent believer in the value of professional leadership for the Academy's music program,[citation needed] expanding its staff of 2 in 1971 to its present[when?] size of 19, with highly trained leadership[weasel words] for the Drum & Bugle Corps, the Orchestra, Women's Glee Club and Gospel Choir, music theatre, full-time office staff, professional singers for its chapel program and a dedicated ticketing operation.[13]

Although primarily a conductor, Barry maintained a high level of keyboard skill,[citation needed] and was often heard playing the organ for Naval Academy chapel services and occasionally appearing as a concerto soloist with the Naval Academy Band.

Among his greatest contributions were the many musical arrangements he created for the choral groups at the Academy; music for the chapel choirs, special arrangements for specific programs such as a program of Depression-era music for a FDR commemoration, televised from the US House of Representatives before a joint session of congress and carried by all the major networks. The scope and range of these arrangements can be heard on the many recordings available of Naval Academy choruses, primarily produced by Richardson Recordings.

He retired in December 2006.[14]

Barry continues to work actively as a musician, directing Annapolis Music Festivals,[15] working as an associate conductor with Encore Creativity's Chautauqua program[16] in western New York, serving as a choral clinician, and filling in from time to time as guest organist at local churches, including the Naval Academy Chapel.[citation needed]


  • Set Sail, 1991, Richardson Records, #70007.
  • Musical Traditions in Navy Blue and Gold, 1991, Richardson Recording #70017.
  • Eternal Father I, Richardson Records, 1991, #70001
  • Eternal Father II, Richardson Records, 1995, #70006
  • Eternal Father III, Richardson Records, 1996, #70021
  • A Capella, Richardson Records, 1995, #70020.
  • On Tour, Richardson Records, 2001, #70015.
  • On Tour II: San Francisco, U.S. Naval Academy, 2010, #606259.
  • Christmas Spirit, Richardson Records, 1992, #70002.
  • Annapolis Sounds, Vol. 1, Richardson Records, 2008, #70003
  • Annapolis Sounds, Vol. 2, Richardson Records, 2008, #70028.
  • Over the Hills and Far Away, Being a Collection of Music from 18th Century Annapolis, Albany Records, 1990.


  1. ^ Clark, Mavis. "The Naval Academy's Music Man". Oberlin College Alumni Magazine, Spring 1999. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  2. ^ Ebarb, Matthew A. "Glee Club Draws Crowd During Homecoming Concert". Trident Newspaper, October 19, 2006. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  3. ^ "Maryland History and Cultural Bibliography". University of Maryland. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  4. ^ Talley, John Barry (2008). Secular Music in Colonial Annapolis, 1745-1756: The Tuesday Club. Champaign, Il: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252014024.
  5. ^ "A History of Music in Annapolis". St John's College News, September 30, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  6. ^ "Papers presented at the Maryland Historical Society during the annual conference of the Sonneck Society, March 23, 1980". Johns Hopkins University Library. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  7. ^ "The US Naval Academy Glee Club with musical director Dr. John Talley rehearse for TNT's "Christmas in Washington" Concert to air Sunday, December 14 at 8pm ET/PT, live from the National Building Museum in Washington DC". MSN Entertainment. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Walker, Craig. "Blue & Gold" (PDF). Yard Tales, Spring 2007, p. 18, 20. Retrieved March 25, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Messiah Halleluia Chorus: Dr. John Barry Talley's final time conducting after 35 years at the Naval Academy, December 10, 2006".
  10. ^ "Dr John Barry Talley to Conduct Spring Oratorio" (PDF). Peabody News, Fall, 2003, p. 45. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 13, 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  11. ^ Greenfield, Phil (March 31, 2005). "Electrifying Requiem to Cap Series". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  12. ^ Thorn, Martha (February 11, 2005). "Star Power". Trident. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  13. ^ Thorn, Martha (October 18, 2001). "Behind the music". Trident. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  14. ^ "Passing the Baton". Annapolis Capital, December 9, 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  15. ^ "Tri-M Honor Society Inducted New Members for 2008-09". DeMatha Catholic High School, November 12, 2008. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
  16. ^ "New Programs Help Set Record at Chautauqua". Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved March 25, 2012.