Timothy Mays was a musician and a beloved educator whose enthusiasm and love for making, composing and sharing music was infinitely more fulfilling than his youthful dreams of being a jazz star.
Mr. Mays, 62, who died Saturday, was a singer and multi-instrumentalist, proficient on keyboards and guitar, and even taught himself to play the cello. In his younger days, Mr. Mays played in a few bands, including the Duke Curry Quartet that gigged regularly at country clubs and other places throughout the area, but he mostly preferred to perform alone.
Mr. Mays’ years as a struggling musician included a few nights sleeping in his car. In 1990 Mays, who was working for a security company, took a job offer from the Stewart Primary School, later Stewart Afrocentric School, where his wife, Barbara Dinkins Mays, also worked. The job, as resident musician for the school and eventually the entire Akron Public Schools system, not only changed his life, but he helped change the lives of thousands of students throughout Akron. He retired in 2010.
“Oh honey, the whole black community loved Mr. Mays, children and parents,” said Barbara, his wife of 35 years. “He was honest, he was loved, that was his life.”
Across his 20 years in the school system, Mr. Mays was called upon to perform at events and schools all over the district, and he often performed and taught his original compositions with students. Mays even formed a singing group with some students called Baby Blues.
In 2003, Mr. Mays was commissioned to compose a song for Akron’s Coming Together Project’s 10th anniversary celebration. Imani In Our Hearts was based on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, “imani” being faith. The piece, arranged for 30 string players, was performed by the Akron Symphony Orchestra at Picnic Pops concerts throughout that summer.
“We were honored,” Barbara Mays said. “They treated us like he was a celebrity. They called him the ‘black Bacharach.’ In his life that’s all he wanted to do was to compose music.”
Mays said besides his music, her husband left behind “a wife that loved him to the day he died, from his head to the bottom of his feet, and the children in the community. His life was music and Stewart School.”
“Music was his life until the day he died. He played cello, jazz guitarist, keyboard player, singer, dancer, arranger and a composer and he took all that and took it to Stewart school to help black kids … any kids … everybody.”
Also surviving him are sons Marcellus Nash and Timothy Jermaine Prade; daughters Tiffanie Nash-Sommerville, Monique Martin and Sonya Skipper; and 10 grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home, 529 W. Thornton St., Akron. Friends may visit at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until time of service. Condolences may be sent to 1104 Mercer Ave., Akron, Ohio 44320.