Peter Horton, former Trumbull High marching band director, dies

TRUMBULL — Matt Holmgren was a teenager when he met Peter Horton for the first time.


Holmgren, now the band director for Hillcrest Middle School, was a student at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, NY in the early 1990s. He was set to perform an outdoor show on Long Island with his school’s band, and realized he had left his baritone horn at school.

His band director reached out to other groups performing at the show to see if anyone had a horn for Holmgren. Trumbull High School’s Golden Eagle March Band was one of the other bands performing, and its director — Horton — was able to help.

“He met me on the sidelines and handed me one of his brand new instruments,” Holmgren said. “Peter used that instrument with his own band. The fact that he let me borrow it was really generous.”

Their paths crossed again decades later, when Holmgren got a job teaching music in Trumbull, first at Madison Middle, then at Hillcrest. Holmgren said he talked to Horton often and always admired his kindness and dedication.

Horton, who retired in 2020 after more than 30 years as a music teacher, has died, according to a post on the marching band’s Facebook page.

A cause of death was not immediately available.

By Monday afternoon, more than 100 people, including Holmgren, had commented on the band’s post about Horton’s death, many of them expressing sadness and remembering Horton as a special teacher.

Holmgren said Horton always had high expectations for his students.

“Whenever they were on the field, everyone else just stopped” to watch them, he said.

During Horton’s tenure, the band marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and two inaugural parades in Washington, DC The band also won several regional and national championships under his leadership.

In 2019, the longtime band director was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Musical Arts Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes musical ensemble instruction and competition across Connecticut.

“Peter Horton’s loss is a tragic one for the THSGEMB past and present, as well as the marching band community as a whole,” said current Trumbull High School band director Josh Murphy. “His influence, legacy, and impact has touched countless lives and will live on for many years to come.”

Horton hired Murphy as a member of the marching band staff in the summer of 2014, and Murphy worked under Horton for six years before taking over as director.

Murphy’s impression of Horton was that he was “an extremely passionate man. He cared very deeply about his band program as well as all the students in it.”

Horton’s charm and influence expanded far beyond Trumbull and the students he led there, Murphy said.

“Something I found memorable and interesting about Peter Horton was that everywhere we went he knew everyone, and everyone knew him” he said. “Whether we were in Florida at a Disney parade, or at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, people came up to greet him as an old friend and he talked with them at length.”

One of Horton’s former students said he was tough in a way that inspired young musicians.

“He wasn’t easy on kids,” said Christopher Winslow, 44, of Ellington.

“He knew what it took to be the best. He knew how good the talents were of the kids in the band and he knew how to make us the best we could be,” he said.

Winslow played in the drum line of the Trumbull high band for three seasons. After high school, he went on to play in the drum line at UConn.

He said playing for Horton taught him the “true enjoyment of playing and being part of a larger thing.”

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