PLEASANTON -- James Campana had a knack for leading bands.
Whether it was the band he founded as a junior in high school to spur on the athletic teams at Balboa High School or the Amador Valley High School program he led for three decades, Campana knew how to get the most of out of his musicians.
"He just had a love for music and he wanted to share that love," said Lisa Garon, one Campana's four children. "He wanted to be remembered for taking the average musician and bringing them to higher standards and to perform greater than they thought they could."
Before his death, Campana mentored, taught and pushed thousands of musicians as the band director for the Amador Valley High School band from 1959 until he retired in 1979.
Campana, 86, died April 26 of natural causes in Livermore, said his son, Paul Campana.
A native of San Francisco, Campana was born Sept. 3, 1926 to Arthur and Katherine Campana. He graduated from the city's Balboa High School, where he formed the Balboa Blues Boys, during his junior year. The Blues Boys played at school athletic events, and the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed Campana the Tommy Dorsey of Balboa High, said Paul Campana.
Campana took his love of music to San Francisco State, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in music.
Amador Valley High School hired Campana in 1959 to lead its band, a position he held for 21 years before retiring. Campana and his wife, Rosemary, both taught in Pleasanton with his wife teaching at Valley View and Pleasanton elementary schools.
"He was very good when we were growing up to exposing us to all kinds of music," said Campana's daughter, Terri. "We could never play the contemporary music on radio -- he didn't like it."
Campana's children were also exposed to the band.
"Oh yes, we had no choice," said Campana's daughter Tina Wilbur about her and her siblings joining the band. "We had to go to band camp freshman year."
The Campana children all played some role in band and credit their father and mother with instilling a strong work ethic.
"He had a passion for teaching and he wanted you to achieve excellence," said Campana's daughter Lisa. "You had to work for it and all of us in the family did our jobs to the fullest. We pushed ourselves, that is what he taught us."
Campana's musical legacy is still felt in Pleasanton with the annual Campana Jazz Festival, which he founded in 1975 as the Amador Valley Jazz Festival. It was renamed in his honor following retirement.
Campana retired in 1979 in part so he could spend more time with his wife and his four kids, said Paul Campana, who also said his father enjoyed family vacations and parties.
"He loved his family and he taught us that family time was real important," he said. "The toughest part about losing him is he won't be here for the next party."
Campana and his wife, Rosemary celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in July 2012. Rosemary, 81, died in August.
Campana is survived by his children Lisa Garon of Pleasanton, Terri Campana of Palenville, N,Y,, Tina Wilbur of Sonora, Paul Campana of Fremont, and five grandchildren.
A rosary will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Graham-Hitch Funeral Home, 4167 First St., Pleasanton. A funeral Mass
will be at 10 a.m. May 17
at St. Augustine's Church,
3999 Bernal Ave., Pleasanton.