James A. Mason

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James A. Mason, 2008

James Albert Mason was born in Eureka, Utah on January 4, 1929. His family moved to Springville, Utah and he grew up across the street from the Springville Museum of Art. At any early age, he began to gain an appreciation for the arts. His mother was a painter, so he subsequently grew up in proximity to the arts.

Mason attended Brigham Young University, but was drafted into the army shortly after starting his education. He served in the Eighth Army Band, which served in both the United States and Korea. One of his most memorable experiences in Korea was the night his unit was bombed and he had to rush everyone out. He was dressed in his ‘MASH outfit’ – a floral shirt and white athletic shoes. People kept asking what division he was from, to which he essentially responded, "I’m with the band."

After his military service Mason returned to BYU where he played the trumpet and French horn, and participated in the dance band and Symphony Orchestra, where he met his wife, Lynne Galbraith.

He ultimately received his bachelor's and master's degrees in music from BYU and studied under Dan Martino and Crawford Gates. He later received his doctoral degree from Arizona State University.


Mason worked for Nebo School District until completing his master's degree. Afterward, he was hired to teach at Brigham Young High School, BYU’s former laboratory high school that was run in conjunction with the education program. He spent his time in research and teaching, eventually creating education content for KUED, a Utah-based public broadcasting system.

At the same time, he entertained multiple side projects, which included co-founding the Utah Valley Symphony. Mason also became involved in the Utah Music Education Association, where he served as treasurer and ultimately as editor of the award-winning Utah Music Educator magazine. He later served as the editor of the Instrumentalist, a monthly music magazine.

After five years at Brigham Young High School, Mason moved to the Music Department where he taught music education courses and supervised student teaching. His students included S. Gordon Jessop, Susan Hobson Kenney and K. Newell Dayley.

During his tenure at BYU, he was able to pursue various other opportunities, including editing The Instrumentalist, serving on the Music Education Research Council, consulting for the Manhattan Curriculum Project in New York, and consulting for the Ford Foundation’s Comprehensive Music Program in Washington. Additional service included membership in the boards of the Barlow Foundation for Music Composition, the Music Industry Council in Chicago, the Professor Foundation in Philadelphia, Utah's Statehood Centennial Commission, the Utah Opera Board, and the Utah Museum Council.

Mason has also been a visiting professor at Indiana University, the University of Texas, Northwestern University, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He has lectured at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China, and at the International Conference on Music Education in Warsaw, Poland. He was also a consultant in Kiev, Ukraine, on western concepts in higher education programs. He has chaired national symposia and worked with committees in developing more effective arts programs, including two House Conferences. Mason served a two-year term in Washington D.C., after being elected national president of the 65,000-member Music Educators National Conference. Mason also served as a member of the advisory committee for the new Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He filled multiple administrative positions at BYU, spending 11 of his 40 years at the university as Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications from 1982 to 1993.

As dean, he oversaw the construction of BYU’s Museum of Art, and served as its first director.

Mason also served on the advisory committee that oversaw the aesthetic development of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Personal Life

Mason has always been active in the LDS Church. He has served as the elder’s quorum president in three wards, high counselor in three stakes, bishop in two wards, and on the Executive Committee of the General Music Board.

He married Lynne Galbraith in the Salt Lake Temple. Together they had three children and ten grandchildren. Mason passed away Thursday, May 15th, 2014.

Awards Received

  • BYU's Distinguished Service Award
  • Franklin S. Harris Award
  • San Francisco Art Critics Award
  • Utah Outstanding Music Educators Award
  • Utah Museum Association Award
  • Reed Smoot Award
  • Arthur Watkins Award
  • BYU Alumni Award
  • Lifetime Achievement Award of the Mormon Arts Committee
  • Recognition from the Israeli Government
  • Two awards from the Educational Press Association
  • Listed in Who's Who in America

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