I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
My fondest feelings of mentors that guided me towards the love of music included my kindergarten music teacher, Dave Pollard, Gordon Olson, Lorne Schemer, Don Murray, and Bob “Reb” Rebagliati.
The first influence of a kind teacher on me at a young age had a lifelong effect. My story in music begins as far back as kindergarten at four or five years old. The music teacher was playing piano and I was given a hand-percussion instrument to play in time with her—maracas or some sort of shaker. After the teacher finished playing she told me, and the rest of the class, how well I kept time with her. That’s the first time that I remember being praised for anything. I stuffed that memory in a safe place in my mind.
My parents started me on piano in grade2. As an “active” child, I only lasted six months with private piano lessons. The teacher was not memorable. But,some days I would spend time on the piano experimenting with melodies and chords. The second teacher of music influence came to me in grade 4. Dave Pollard had come to Windsor Elementary School in Burnaby and said, “Who wants to be in a band?” My hand shot up fast. That was 1963. I still have the letter that was printed on a gestetner machine that I took home to my parents. He checked to make sure I had all my fingers and my teeth. I told him that I wanted to play trumpet. Why trumpet? Because, at a young age, I had seen a b/w western movie on TV where the herowas playing a cornet or trumpet in a desert prison somewhere in the Wild West.I had a good feeling about that trumpet-playing hero. My dad took me to Empire Music in New Westminster and bought me, what I later learned, was a really bad German trumpet for $62 plus tax. That is how I got started. I remember Dave Pollard (later a school Principal) as a kind, patient, and fair itinerant band teacher that set simple rules for the team and always had a plan that we worked towards. When I was in grade 7, in 1966, my parents and two other band friend’s parents had us join Gordon Olson’s Beefeater Band.More about Mr. Olson shortly.
I was attending Royal Oak Junior Secondary by then and would later go on to Burnaby South for grades 11 and 12. Mr. Wilson was the band director at Royal Oak. They had one concert band and I played principal first trumpet in grade 8. I didn’t take band at school in grade 9 & 10because I was travelling two times a week for Beefeater Band rehearsals and private group lessons with Ken Hopkins, principle trumpet of the VSO. I thought it was a good idea at the time, but today I cannot remember anything about the other courses I took instead of band. All I remember isfeeling like I abandon my band buddies. By grade 10 a bunch of those buddies and I formed a rock band and played Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago and Tower of Power. It was called Max Wettig, after the German piano in the room where we practiced in my basement. It’s not surprising that everyone thought our lead singer was named Max. That band in grade 12 morphed into a local band called Granville. Over the next two years we played all the local clubs in Greater Vancouver. When I arrived at Burnaby South in September 1970 for my grade 11 year, I took band. The director was Lynne Robinson. I also took choir. Another course I took for both years was called Instrumental Survey 11/12. Over the two years I learned to play euphonium, cello, percussion, and flute. Flute later became my second instrument after the trumpet. Lynne Robinson played flute. One time I forgot my flute at home. Lynne said, “You can play mine.” It was all tarnished and looked ugly. At that time I didn’t know that a Haynes flute was really special and expensive.
When I joined the Beefeater band I went into the Intermediate Band. They still wore the West Point uniforms. Mr. Olson was always a fair person with a firm hand. There was an energy about him that was hard to explain. He didn’t say very much. He just led and you respected him. We always knew where we stood with Mr. Olson. He was a father figure to all of us. Playing in his band offered a certain stability in our young lives. My father was the band treasurer for awhile. I found out later in life but I didn’t know at the time. I feel that Gordon Olson was most responsible for my love of band. I was in his band the longest of any bands. I still have friends from my Beefeater days that I am in contact with but none from my school band days. It was a family. I knew by the end of grade 11 that I wanted to be a band director. After grade 12 I went to Douglas College to study music in 1972. A half-year later I felt it was time for me to leave the Beefeater Band. Gordon did a lot for me like the time he gave me a solo to play at center ice in front of a microphone at the Pacific Coliseum during a pre-game show at a Canuck’s game. He gave me lots of opportunities to play my trumpet. When I told him I was leaving he said goodbye and wished me well with my studies to become a band director. Ten years later at one of the alumni concerts at the Vancouver Playhouse, before the concert, I was passing by and saw him in one of the changing rooms. His wife Louisa was helping him get ready. He was suffering from a little bit of dementia by then. He was fussing with his bow tie. I was a shy guy and hadn’t really ever approached him before except when to say I was leaving the band. He was a very spiritual person to me. He was just always there for us during those years. He imparted his knowledge to us all but not so much directly one on one. I mustered up enough courage to step inside the room and help him straighten his bow tie. It was a real tear-jerker moment. I think he said “hi,” but I am not sure. It was like a “thank you” or an “It’s okay we understand.” That was the last time I ever saw him or spoke to him again. He passed away six years later in 1999.
When I was at Douglas College in 1972, Randy Rayment was putting together a 9-piece swing band called Perdido. I, along with two of my Douglas friends, Fred Gass, and Fred Cook, joined Randy and we went on the road. We set out across Canada for a year and the Swing Band played a lot of Rock Rooms. Christmas week & New Years Eve in the Ballroom at the Banff Springs Hotel was one of the road highlights. On our return to Vancouver, we became the House Band for The Cave Supper Club. Being the back-up band for Rosemary Clooney was another highlight for us. What I remember most vividly was at the end of the one-week engagement,when Rosemary gave each of us a big farewell hug and a goodbye kiss on the cheek. When the band eventually dissolved I took another year at Douglas College to complete my two-year Diploma in the Bachelor of Music.
Now that you have read Keith’s wonderful back story you will have to go to our bookstore and purchase a copy of Hearts, Minds & Souls to read all about his teaching career. It is equally as wonderful!