Bernard Long Jr. has served as the band director for Normandy High School since 2014 and is an adjunct professor of jazz drumset at Lindenwood University. All the while, he remained a student himself, earning his teaching certificate in Music Education and master’s degree in Music Education at Lindenwood University.
“It’s been fun,” Long said. “I’ve graduated a lot of students. Most of them maintained and stayed in music.”
Long has an extensive background in music. He began playing music at an early age, and this got him started on his career path to becoming a musical educator and landing professional gigs across the country.
“My father played percussion; I have a uncle that played percussion as well,” Long said. For long percussion was something that existed in his family and is one of the things Long started doing at a young age. One of his earliest performances based around percussion began at a young age. “I started playing drums at church when I was 6 years old,” he said.
Eventually Long landed his first professional performance at age 11 with a band called “Images In Infinity.” At this time, he got the chance to play with people who were older than he was at the time.
“It was pretty exciting,” he said. “I got to play with some high school students at the time from Lincoln Senior High School which always had a phenomenal program.” The Lincoln program was under the tutelage of legendary music educator Ron Carter, who later moved to Northern Illinois University, building one of the elite university jazz programs in the nation. Long would follow Carter to NIU and continue to learn from him during his collegiate years.
“He was my biggest mentor in music education,” Long said of Carter.
Now a professor emeritus at NIU, Carter was inducted into Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Educators Hall of Fame and is himself a past awardee of the St. Louis American Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education.
Since he was young, Long has been learning under the leadership of his elders.
“I’ve always been around older musicians.” He said. “I learn a lot of music. I learn some things about life just hanging around older people and older musicians.”
Like his upbringing in music, Long has an extensive educational background prior to becoming a music educator. He has earned several degrees and participated in musical performances throughout his collegiate time.
In 2009 Long graduated from NIU with a bachelor of music in Jazz Studies. During this time he performed with the NIU Jazz Ensemble, touring with professional musicians such as Curtis Fuller, Clark Terry, Antonio Hart, Benny Golson, Rodney Whitaker and Peter Erskine.
Eventually Long went on to graduate with his master of music in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University, and during his time there he directed two of MSU’s jazz orchestras. In 2016, Long earned his master of art in teaching in Music Education from Lindenwood University. Currently Long is completing his Ed.S. in School Administration, also at Lindenwood. In the future he has hopes to work in administration as “a leader in the fine arts.”
“One of my goals is to become a dean of a school of music one day,” he said. “If not on a college level, definitely at high school.”
This will be Long’s first time attending the Salute gala, but he recognizes the importance of this award.
“It’s a high honor to be recognized,” he said. “It’s not a lot of African-American men in education. We have to carry the torch. We have to show the youth what the future is and how to overcome the world. “