John N. Foss

PALERMO – On Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 24, 2023, John Nathanael Foss took his final curtain call with the love of his life, Emily, by his side.

Born 86 years ago on Oct. 8, 1936, in Lewiston, to John S. and Lois B. (Guptill) Foss, John attended schools in Lewiston before his family moved to Pittsfield where he graduated from Maine Central Institute. He went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1959.

After graduation, John joined the Navy where he taught at the Navy School of Music and toured with the Navy Band as a trumpet soloist. While stationed in Washington, D.C., he sang in a chorus under the direction of Igor Stravinsky. This was one of the most fulfilling musical experiences of his life.

At the end of his two-year enlistment in 1961, John made his way to where the action was for a polished young jazz trumpeter – Las Vegas! It was there that John honed his art over 15 years, playing in house bands backing up Della Reese, Wayne Newton, Peggy Lee, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, and Frank Sinatra Jr., among many others. John was having dinner with Frank Jr. in his room at Lake Tahoe’s, Harrah’s Club, when two men, posing as room service, kidnapped Frank Jr. and tied up and blindfolded John, leaving him on the floor.

Living in the hills of Mt. Charleston, northwest of Vegas, John continued to play seven nights a week and made connections that led to the opportunity of a lifetime. In the mid-’70s, John was selected to join the brass section of the Beach Boys for a world tour. John’s connections to the members of the band lasted well after the tour ended.

Looking to slow down, John moved to Los Angeles, Calif. and worked as a landscaper but by the early ’80s the pull of Maine lured him back home, settling in Augusta and taking a job at Erskine Academy. He tirelessly built the music program from scratch at Erskine and taught generations of musicians for the next several decades. He encouraged students to compose as well as conduct and was always available to assist students with music before and after school. John was the first recipient of the District III Music Educator of the Year Award. That was only his day job.

He took on scores of private students, so many of which went on to impact the music scene, not only in Maine but around the world. There is barely a trumpet player under the age of 60 in Maine who isn’t familiar with John’s work. As if that wasn’t enough, John’s virtuosity on trumpet made him a sought-after commodity from the Port City Allstars to the Al Corey Big Band, the Phil Rich Big Band, the Manchester Brass, the Tony Boffa Band, the Portland Jazz Orchestra and so many more. John’s playing, however, was not all big band gigs. He could be found in small trios, quartets, and in the orchestra pit doing music theater. When big names like Martha and the Vandellas and Natalie Cole came to Maine, John got the call.

John’s involvement in the Maine music scene exposed a need to bring jazz education to the younger generation. In the early ’80s John called on a number of those Vegas contacts to come to Maine to work at the Maine Jazz Camp at the old Oak Grove Coburn school, exposing hundreds of young musicians to world renowned expertise for many summers.

Retired in 2003 from Erskine, John resumed his landscaping passion on his farm in Palermo that he and his wife Emily spent the last 30 years building into a home.

He is survived by his wife Emily; his children Jeffery Jones and his wife Angelique Breton of Casco, Andrea Girimonte and her husband Al of Gaithersburg, Md., Erika Reay and her husband Brian of China; his brother-in-law, Frank Rende of Augusta; nephews Nate Rende and his wife Suzanne of Boothbay, Sam Rende and his wife Miki of Wichita, Kan., Nik Rende and his wife Kathy of Augusta; and many grandchildren; grandnephews and grandnieces.

John was predeceased by his parents; and his sister, Priscilla Rend.

John may have been small of stature but with a trumpet in his hands he was a giant.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Erskine Academy gymnasium, 309 Windsor Rd., So. China, on Sunday, Feb. 12. Visitation will be from 12 to 1 p.m. with a service directly following from 1 to 2 p.m. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited.

To attend John’s memorial service remotely, available live stream:

Arrangements are in the care of the Knowlton and Hewins Funeral Home, 1 Church St., Augusta where condolences and memories may be shared with the family on the obituary page of the funeral home website by visiting

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to

Erskine Academy

309 Windsor Rd.

China, ME 04358

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