ABOVE: Bob conducting at Expo 86
Bob Rebagliati took over the program in September 1976 and built it into a championship program through 2004. When Bob came in the program was at a low ebb with only 35 members in the concert band. One of the first things Bob did was establish a Parent’s Committee BPAC. Pat Nicholson was the Chair. Her sons Bruce and Neil were both in the band. Bruce Nicholson has gone on to be a fine bass trombone player in Big Bands around Vancouver. Bob continued a senior jazz band and started a junior jazz band. He also ran guitar classes and a vocal jazz group. In the 1978-9 school year Bob’s concert band with only 27 players placed first in the Kiwanis Festival. “When you only have 27 members everyone has to play like a soloist. There is no place to hide. They were great kids,” Bob told me. Bob borrowed a catch phrase from a mentor in Kelowna KSS, Brian Todd: EXCELLENCE DEMANDS DEDICATION! Bob always strived for a culture of excellence.
In 1979 his senior jazz band took first place at the New West Jazz Festival and then he took them to MUSIC FEST in Vancouver where they got a special award for excellence. It was a small big band with only 13 players but they were all stars! Renee Rosnes, Norm Fischer, Dave ——-, Terry Madsen, Tom Colclough. Good improvisers! Bob has a recording of that band. He started recording his bands on a regular basis starting in 1981. Over the 28 years Bob spent at Handsworth his bands made many trips including to: Whitehorse, the Saskatoon International Band Festival. [At the Saskatoon Festival Lynn Skinner one of the judges came up to him and invited his band to be guests at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho the coming year. bob knew half the band would be graduating so unfortunately they didn’t make the gig.]
In the mid 80s Bob took his band to Utah. In 1986 his junior and senior jazz bands both won the Canadian Stage band Festival at MUSIC FEST which was held in Vancouver that year on the EXPO Stage in False Creek. In 88 his Senior Jazz Band placed first at MUSIC FEST in Calgary. That was the last year the competition was a competitive festival. From then on it became based on a set of standards based on gold, silver, bronze.
To read all of Bob’s amazing story you will have to go to the Bookstore and purchase a copy of Hearts, Minds & Souls.