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Band-O-Rama featuring alto saxophonist

By Heidi Tanner and
Bill Gottschalk
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Al Olson This year’s Band-O-Rama features local saxophonist Bill Gottschalk playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Photo courtesy Al Olson
This year’s Band-O-Rama features local saxophonist Bill Gottschalk playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Make plans to attend the third annual Band-O-Rama on Saturday, May 10, at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium.

Band-O-Rama is hosted by the Pagosa Springs Community Band and showcases the three middle school and two high school bands in a joint concert with the Pagosa Springs Community Band. Each band enjoys the stage on their own and the concert ends with a finale in which all bands play one number together.

This year, the community band is proud to feature local saxophonist Bill Gottschalk playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Bill Gottschalk was born 69 years ago in Galveston, Texas, and has been married to his wife, Sue, for almost 47 years. Both are retired band directors and professional musicians. They met in college while attending the University of Houston. Bill holds both a bachelor of music education degree and master of music degree, with emphasis on music literature and woodwind performance.

Gottschalk has performed with the Houston Symphony under the baton of Arthur Fiedler, the Houston Pops, the Ice Capades, at Astroworld, Disney on Ice, the Houston Rodeo and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. Gottschalk has also played for such entertainers as Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Mitzi Gaynor, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dale Rogers, Foster Brooks, Jimmy Durante, Robert Goulet, Phyllis Diller, George Gobel, Rich Little and many others.

His teaching career began at the University of Houston, where he was saxophone instructor, assistant marching band director, woodwind instructor, conducting instructor and director of the university concert band. He then became the band director at Pasadena High School, and assistant band and jazz band director at Brazoswood High School and Bridge City Independent School District, before retiring to Pagosa Springs in 1996.

Both the Gottschalks enjoy playing whenever possible and have played locally for both high school and Curtains Up Pagosa theater performances, the German Polka Band, the Lake City Community Band and at local churches.

Gottschalk, a co-founding director of the community band, is also assisting with the formation of the new 17-piece Pagosa Swings Big Band, which will be performing music of the ’30s to ’70s throughout the summer.

During his “gigging” days in the Houston area, Gottschalk played all the woodwind instruments except the flute, including clarinets, saxophones, oboe, English horn, and bassoon; however, an ATV accident four years ago left him with no mobility in his left thumb, and also limited his playing to the saxophone. His favorite instrument of all the woodwinds is the alto saxophone, on which he will play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Though classically trained, he will offer a unique jazz interpretation to this well-known melody.

When asked what he considers his most memorable teaching and playing moments, Gottschalk responded that he found it impossible to pick particular moments in time. His life has been blessed with so many wonderful musical experiences.

Teaching has provided opportunities to see students grow, both musically and personally, because of their successes and sometimes their failures. Music allows the bonding of students in a way that only group activities can provide, with lifelong bonds having formed with so many of his students. And absolutely nothing can top the thrill of playing quality music with quality musicians. Whether performing in an intimate bistro or to a full house at the largest theater in Houston, a beginner band concert, conducting the U.S. Air Force Band, or performing at state marching contest, every performance and every teaching experience has left its imprint. The true joy comes from just being in the moment, whether playing or teaching, and being thankful for such wonderful blessings.

So, what’s ahead for Gottschalk? Keep learning, keep playing his instruments, keep sharing and keep studying. Learning never ends —that is the advice he shares with anyone. Seek quality advice and be determined.

Admission to Band-O-Rama is free. Mark the date — Saturday, May 10, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

This story was posted on May 6, 2014.