US composer and attorney wife are found dead at home

US composer and attorney wife are found dead at home


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2018

Kenneth A. Jacobs, 69, former head of University of Tennessee’s School of Music’s composition program, and his wife Melinda Howes Jacobs, 59, were found dead in their Townsend home on Saturday.

Around 12:30 pm sheriff’s deputies and Townsend Police responded to a residence on Kelly Ridge Circle in regards to a welfare check after receiving reports there might be a suspect with a weapon inside. As they approached the home, they heard a gunshot.

The deaths are being treated as murder and suicide.

Jacobs was a highly regarded teacher whose music has been widely recorded.



  • Doug says:

    1. She: “I want to leave you, but not all your money. I’m keeping that.”

    2. He: (thinking to himself) “My life will be over and I’ll be a destitute wino living in flophouse until I die in a puddle of my own feces and urine.”

    3. He: (picking up a loaded gun) “What was it you said now?”

    • Dennis says:

      A rather grotesque and tasteless attempt at humor.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      What the hell is wrong with the people on this site? Are you all insane? Just because our politicians are crass and insensitive does not mean we have to follow suit.

      Grow up and value human life. At the very least.

    • Karlynn Davies says:

      FYI, she didn’t need his money. She made her own as highly successful attorney and national special education law expert. Not only are you insensitive, you are also sexist.

    • Bruce says:

      Wow, Doug. Really?

      Try to keep in mind that, even if you didn’t know them, these were still real people.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Even by the standards set by some of the comments on this website this comment is appalling. I’m also shocked that Norman hasn’t removed it. These people will have had relatives, friends, and colleagues who may well read this. Also, as already noted, you should bear in mind that Melinda Jacobs was an attorney and ten years younger than her husband, a retired academic. If anything, she was presumably the one who made the serious money. So your portrayal is not only grossly offensive but also probably far wide of the mark.

  • Sue says:

    This is a sad story, indeed, especially after the murder suicide of an entire extended family this last weekend in Australia; grandfather shot his wife, daughter and four grand-children. (I’m keeping an opening mind about the grandfather doing it!)

    No jokes about this possible. This story here seems like a sad one about co-dependence and illness. We cannot ever stop this happening.

    • Me! says:

      You could donate $ for public service announcements and mental health services (reducing stigma, addressing these types of issues and making mental health services accessible to all, which would accomplish both (education/reducing stigma and freely available mental health services. Or you could donate to an able bodied employed woman whose composer husband died of unknown (yet) and/or undisclosed causes, so she can supplement her savings – your call

      • Sue says:

        As I said before, nothing can stop these murder/suicides. There are issues here about co-dependency (I speak in EMOTIONAL terms here, not financial ones), isolation and depression. This is its own public service announcement. Some people cannot live without his or her spouse; fact. The less palatable scenario is possessiveness, jealousy and domestic violence. Your call.

      • Bruce says:

        “your call”

        Oh. Well then.

  • william osborne says:

    This is a sad event. My wife and I met Ken quite a few years ago when we were guest artists at the University of Tennessee. He became a fairly regular participant on Abbie’s Facebook page where he was always very friendly and gracious. His photos he would post of the Smokey Mountains were especially wonderful. Not so long ago, he sent Abbie some of his works for trombone. And not long ago, he and his wife took a vacation on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. They seemed happy. This is very saddening news. The music department at the U of T seems devastated. There seemed to be some hints on his FB page over the last few weeks that something was wrong, but I don’t think even those close to him and his wife anticipated this.

    • Sharon Beth Long says:

      We still really do not know the facts

      • Sharon Beth Long says:

        Although I have not personally seen the studies gun control advocates say that it is much more likely that a gun in the home is used for a suicide or domestic dispute than to defend against an intruder or someone else who is threatening with a gun

        • replyingtoidiots says:

          And before this many other tools were used for suicide or domestic disputes. This is another case of trying to cure the symptoms rather than the disease. If you remove guns people will use anything else available.

          Like anything else, guns are tools, blank objects changing purpose in the hands of the user. This problem is of far greater scope than the tools used.

    • Sharon Beth Long says:

      We still really do not know the facts.

      However, if it is a murder/suicide it is yet another argument for gun control which exists in Europe but not in most places in the US or I believe Australia. If someone is distraught they are much more likely to use a weapon if it is at hand than if it is difficult to obtain

      In the US people who have psychiatric hospitalizations (and I am not saying that this is the case here) cannot legally buy guns but because of needed privacy laws we have no registry of formerly hospitalized psychiatric patients. This is why guns for civilians must be rigorously controlled across the board

      • replyingtoidiots says:

        Because suicide never existed before guns, right? Because suicide isn’t rampant in countries with rigorous gun control such as Japan, right?

        If someone is distraught and has suicidal intentions they will use whatever is at hand — rope or cord, car exhausts, jumping off buildings. What about banning rope and cord, car exhausts, or buildings?

        Overreaction to gun violence is treatment of a symptom in hopes that the disease will go away rather than treatment of the actual disease — in this case, likely some type of marital issues, though we don’t know. Murder and suicide have been a common theme throughout history, and acting as if problems will be solved if we remove tools at hand is grossly ignorant of the reality that there will ALWAYS be tools at hand.

        • Nick2 says:

          As usual with those advocating gunfights, Replyingtoidiots paints only part of the picture. If someone has a mental illness or is suicidal, access to a gun provides instant relief. There is no need for thought. Grab the gun and – that’s the end! Easy! Try the other methods he advocates and all require quite a bit of thought either beforehand or during the act. These thoughts may not be pleasant and so prevent the action. I suspect many of us have had really bad times in our lives when suicide has figured in our thoughts, if only fleetingly. At such moments the presence of a gun can be extremely dangerous to life. So many people owning guns is a disease in itself.

          • replyingtoidiots says:

            “Advocating gunfights.” Nice way to twist my words. How about arguing with arguments instead? I could just as easily say you are “advocating fistfights” or “advocating ropefights” or something equally foolish.

            If someone has a mental illness or is suicidal they are legally not allowed to purchase a gun unless they explicitly lie, in which case (as is usual) the gun control does not work; after all, murder is already illegal. Laws do not stop someone who have every intention of breaking a law.

            People have committed suicide for millennia; guns are a tool, and fighting the tool does nothing to solve the problem because guns are not the problem.

            Help people instead of stripping them of their freedoms.

          • Henn Bonnie Thuma says:

            Additionally, it’s more difficult to take someone off the bridge with you. I went to high school with Melinda. I don’t know what happened between then and now, but this is not what I would have ever thought would happen. So very sad.

  • Jan M. Davis says:

    I have attended Melinda’s national conference with thousands of people every year. She was a shining light, an accomplished attorney, a national teacher and she will be greatly missed.