Geraldine “Jeri” Layne

May 18, 1938–Nov 15, 2020

Jeri Layne, 82 of Russell, KY, left this earthly home, for her heavenly reward, on Sunday, November 15, 2020.

She was born May 18, 1938 in Barboursville, KY. Jeri is survived by her husband, Gary Miller Layne, one son, Todd Layne and his wife Rebecca of Wilmore, KY; three granddaughters, Mackenzie, Devon, and Savannah, one great granddaughter, Marley Ann, and one sister, Judy McKnight.

Jeri studied and received her degree in music and education with an emphasis on piano from Eastern KY University in 1960. Jeri was always willing to accept any challenge and every opportunity to share her love of music. When Jeri and Gary first came to the Ashland area, she was asked to start the marching band program at Boyd County High School, growing the unit to over 100 members. After her teaching career at Boyd County High School, she started the Jeri Layne School of Baton, teaching the art of baton twirling, dance, and gymnastics to hundreds of local youths. Next Jeri was asked to initiate the choir program at Russell First Christian Church, now Bridges Christian Church, again growing a program that gave opportunities of service to all ages of the congregation, including the Bells of Praise, bell choir which was her pride and joy, directing them for 25 years. Much of Jeri’s work at Bridges was as a volunteer, sharing her love for music with her church family.

Jeri then retired from Bridges, to teach piano lessons for 19 years in her home, influencing students to enrich their lives and appreciate the arts. Her students won many awards in solos and ensembles in piano, voice, and other instruments. She was certified by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association and the Music Teachers National Association. Jeri was also an active member of the American College of Musicians and her students participated annually in the National Piano Guild Auditions. She created the Clavinova Festival/Piano Showcase and continued that program for many 9 years. Jeri had many students follow her love for music earning degrees in piano and other instruments.  She was a member of the KMTA state board for many years and was part of the KY All-State Keyboard Festival E-Team. She participated in the Keyboard Ensemble that presented two workshops at the National Music Teachers Association convention in Cincinnati, OH.  She served as President of the Paramount Women Association and as Youth Education Director for that Association for several years. She also served as a member of the Core Committee for Education and Outreach at the Paramount Arts Center and the Clavinova Festival which was part of that program. She was instrumental in starting the first Choral Festival at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, KY. She’s a former adjunct piano teacher at Kentucky Christian University and a longtime member and President of Ashland Area Music Teachers Association.  Jeri was the treasurer for over 10 years and held that position until she retired.  Jeri influenced many young teachers in the Ashland Area, encouraging them to join KMTA and the local association. She challenged them to enter their students in the local events because she knew the impact that would have on their teaching. She was so encouraging to anyone new to the association and went out of her way to make them feel like they belonged in the group. 

In 1999, Jeri was honored by her peers as she was named, “Kentucky Music Teacher of the Year”.  Jeri was always available to serve in multiple volunteer areas, to promote the arts in the Tri-State. She was married to the love of her life Gary, for almost 60 years. Jeri’s hobby was gardening as well as having a love and flair for cooking.  She treasured her husband and son. She especially loved her role as grandma to her three granddaughters and great granddaughter. 

A tribute to Jeri Layne from a former student:

I began piano studies at the age of 13. Considered by most professionals to be “much too late” to do anything serious with the instrument, I started by taking lessons from a local church musician, and while I enjoyed learning to read music through piano method books, hymns, and gospel songs, I soon began longing for more. I wanted to learn from someone who could help guide me through classical music studies, a newfound interest about which I knew very little.

My search for a new piano instructor did not last long. The clear and only choice recommended to me by countless musicians and music teachers was Jeri Layne. I can recall nervously calling Mrs. Lane to inquire about lessons. I learned that she was not accepting new students at the time, but throughout our conversation she must have heard the desperation in my voice, and agreed to meet me, nonetheless.

Entering the Jeri Layne Music Studio for the first time was a thrilling experience. The space was completely filled with engaging educational tools. Mrs. Lane had not one piano, but two, a state-of-the-art Yamaha Clavinova with an orchestra at your fingertips, and computer games designed for piano and music theory tutoring. Her shelves were lined with books whose spines read Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Debussy. Portraits and busts of composers overlooked the entire scene. I was immediately at home.

It didn’t take long for Mrs. Lane and me to agree to weekly lessons, and thus began our wonderful relationship. I longed for a teacher who would challenge me, and I had certainly found it. I was full of questions, and Mrs. Lane seemed to have all the answers. Apart from weekly traditional piano lessons, her curriculum contained a large Music Theory and Music History component which deepened my understanding and appreciation of our work. In our “Theory Groups,” we would discuss various topics, listen to performances, and watch lecture recitals given by Maurice Hinson and Leonard Bernstein. An exceptionally active and dynamic instructor, Mrs. Lane was highly respected among piano teachers in the state and region, I came to learn. Through her affiliation with numerous musical organizations, I was able to participate in annual Kentucky Music Teacher Association conferences and competitions, as well as the Ashland Area Music Teachers Association’s Clavinova Festival, memorial scholarship competition, and The National Piano Guild auditions.

Mrs. Lane was able to help me channel and refine my musical gifts. A strict teacher with very clear expectations, she was always so encouraging of me. Helping me find my own musical voice at a time when I needed it most, I was honored with her studio’s “Award for Musical Expression” at my first end-of-year recital. Like every great teacher, she saw potential in me that I didn’t know existed, and pushed me to follow my passion for music. She helped me prepare for college music school auditions, where I was offered numerous scholarships for piano study: something I never thought possible for myself. Her dreams for me were bigger than my own, and I am incredibly thankful for her vision and encouragement. Her legacy and passion for music teaching lives on in me and the countless lives she touched. When I approach the keyboard to lead a worship service, play an opera rehearsal, or coach a young singer, Mrs. Lane’s spirit and memory are there alongside me; guiding, encouraging, and challenging me in her own, special way.

Thank you for the music.

James Sparks
(The Artist formally known as Jim Bob)
November 16, 2020