Of Sherborn passed away on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at age 85.
Son of the late Stanley Montrose McDonald and Ruth Gertrude (Kaiser) McDonald. Beloved husband of Ellen (Miller) McDonald of Sherborn. Devoted father of Andrew Montrose McDonald of Northborough, and Alison (McDonald) Beavers of West Palm Beach, FL. Proud grandfather of Max Treichel, Eden McElhaney, Tristan Beavers and Tobias Montrose Beavers, and great grandfather of Malachi McElhaney.
Stanley grew up in Needham, MA, with cows and a stream behind his family home. There, he developed a love of nature equal to his later love of jazz. Most of his adult life he lived in Sherborn, a town where he had developed attachments as he ventured from Needham with teenage friends to explore woods and streams together. Stanley was a poet, outdoorsman, herpetologist, fly fisherman, Francophile, and environmentalist. As a teenager he led tours of live animals at the Boston Museum of Science, where Spooky the famous great horned owl perched on his shoulder and turned his head 180 degrees while young Stan lectured delighted visitors.
Stanley was drafted into the United States Army in the late 1950’s, when the Country battled the Cold War but no active conflicts. During his army duty, Stanley played in the 25 th Infantry Division Band. He was awarded his Certificate of Band Training from the Naval School of Music where he received his only formal lessons on the clarinet. In college, he switched his major from Wildlife Management to English.
He earned his last few credits at the Sorbonne. That summer he spoke fluent French while he lived in a cramped room on Paris’ Ile de la Cité on the Seine. (At nights he made the most of the Paris jazz scene.) He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature with a minor in Philosophy from UMass, Amherst. At the Breadloaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College, Vermont he sat at the knee of Robert Frost. He earned a Master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In 1996 he was given the school’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Stanley was director for 25 years of the Whittemore Library at Framingham State College. He was an active member of the American Library Association, the New England Library Association, and the New England Chapter of the Association of College Research Libraries. He guided the Commonwealth’s libraries into the nascent computer age.
Stan McDonald is best known globally as a traditional jazz musician for his soaring and passionate soprano saxophone and clarinet inspired by Sidney Bechet. His faultless intonation on soprano sax is widely recognized on that instrument which few are able to play in tune. His music lessons began at age seven on piano. At about fourteen he switched to alto saxophone. He played in the junior high school band. On his way home from school he often stopped at his cousin Ted’s house to listen to a collection of 78 rpm jazz records. His first paid performances were at high school dances. As a teenager he lowered his saxophone from his bedroom window and on his way out the front door, told his parents he was going to the movies with friends. His destination, though, was the Log Cabin in Dedham, a venue for hot jazz.
In college his band played for fraternity parties at UMass and Amherst College and various East Coast colleges. In those days he met some of the musicians who would play with him throughout Europe and the US in future bands. The most prominent band was the New Black Eagle Jazz Band. That band played every Thursday to a packed house at the Sticky Wicket Pub in Hopkinton, MA when they were not traveling to festivals and concerts. A jazz concert in Mt. Gretna, PA was where he met Ellen, to become his wife of 40 years.
Stan and the Black Eagles parted company in 1981, and Stan formed and led the Blue Horizon Jazz Band. Stan brought jazz to The Sherborn Inn where his band played for 19 years until the Inn changed hands. Internationally known guests came to play with Stan at the Inn, including several in the Jazz Hall of Fame. He last played with his band in 2020 at Primavera Ristorante in Millis, MA before the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited indoor music.
Stan’s closeness with his son is memorialized by a favorite photo of Andy outboarding with Dad in a CD insert. You can listen to Stan’s three-part interview and music on the Jazz Rhythm series that was broadcast on Public Radio stations. Stan McDonald Programs (jazzhotbigstep.com) These interviews by Dave Radlauer received a Gabriel Award for excellence. The site also contains a link to text of an extensive article written by George Borgman, Stan’s biographer, that appeared in The Mississippi Rag.
Immediate services are private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Stanley’s memory to the Mass Audubon Society, Attn: Development Office, 208 South Great Rd., Lincoln MA 01773; or COFAR, 3 Hodges St., Mansfield MA 02048 (Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates for the Retarded); or a charity of one’s choice.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Stanley Montrose McDonald, Jr., please visit our floral store.