Captain George Moxon McRae, CD
May 18, 1926 – August 15, 2020
Second World War Veteran
Head of Music, Malvern Collegiate Institute, Toronto, 1948-1986
Director of Music, 7th Toronto Artillery (RCA) Band, 1966-1977
In his 95th year, the penultimate Music Man has joined the Big Band Stand in the sky! Survived by his life partner of more than 60 years, Penny, his two children Pam and Craig, and three grandsons Bradley, Ryan and Colin. Predeceased by his parents George and Edith (Collins).
George’s legendary music career began at the age of three on the piano under the tutelage of his Aunt Kathleen. He attended Bedford Park Primary School and then Lawrence Park Collegiate. It was here that George also began his love of sports, which included track and field, football, rugby, speed skating, hand ball, tennis, squash, golf, boating and kayaking.
George began his military career as a Cadet while attending Lawrence Park Collegiate. Following his graduation from high school, George enrolled in 1945 as an Infanteer in the Canadian Army. He later transferred to the Canadian Army Show as a Musician. In this capacity he both arranged and performed with the Army Show throughout Europe, including England, The Netherlands and Germany. After the war he returned to Canada in 1946 and took his release from the Canadian Army in order to attend the University of Toronto to obtain his B.Sc. and The Royal Conservatory of Music to further study trombone and piano.
George’s teaching career began in 1948 when the Toronto Board of Education hired him as a music teacher, part of a pilot project introducing instrumental music into four Toronto High Schools. Thus began George’s illustrious career as the Director of Music at Malvern Collegiate Institute. Over five decades he built the instrumental Music program at Malvern to unprecedented success. In so doing he taught thousands of students, many of whom have had their own successful careers in music and music education. Of particular note, George took great pride in creating the Malvern Marching Band. This Band performed in hundreds of significant events wearing their distinctive scarlet tunics, Cunningham tartan kilts, and Glengarry hats. George was proud to have his Malvern Marching Band perform for Royalty, signature opening ceremonies, Toronto Santa Claus Parades and many sporting events.
In 1958 George resumed his military career by joining the 7th Toronto Regiment (RCA) Band. He rose through the ranks from Private to Sergeant and then in 1966 was commissioned and appointed Director of Music. Captain McRae held this position until his retirement in 1977.
Throughout the years George maintained his professional music career performing widely as a trombonist and pianist. He performed with a number of musical artists and bands notably Guy Lombardo, Elvis Presley, Theresa Stratus to name a few. George had a sixty-year relationship with The Toronto Santa Claus Parade, beginning as a military musician, then as the Director of the Malvern Marching Band. Following his retirement from Malvern in 1986 he was appointed the Band Co-ordinator for all bands in the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. In 2006, at the age of eighty, he stepped back and in so doing passed the mantle to his children, Pam and Craig and grandson Bradley to carry on this great tradition.
In between all of his commitments, George and Penny were fortunate to be able to travel the world. Upon retiring from his teaching career, they settled permanently in Picton, Ontario. Unable to let grass to grow under his feet, George continued his musical journey with the 8 Wing (Trenton) Concert Band playing trombone, conducting and announcing from 1992-2009. He could be seen racing his powered Zodiak up and down the Picton Bay on “gig-free” days!
Who was George McRae? Perhaps Russ Little, former student and Jazz legend himself said it best: “George led by example. He has so much integrity. He’s such a four-squared good guy with no BS about him……He manages his life well, he’s honest and grounded and handles relationships with people in a straight forward way.”
None of his students will ever forget the immortal words of George Moxon McRae:
“Practice at home”
“Sit up straight”
“If you can’t make it, fake it”
“The Conductor makes mistakes but he is never wrong”
“If you aren’t at the show you had better be in hospital or you will be”
And finally: “Strive for tone”
Cremation has taken place.
The family would appreciate donations to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation in George’s name.
Thanks for the Memories George!