Monday, February 15, 2010

Gaskill Jr. High School Band, circa 1955

Submitted by Jim Brunn:

(click on photo for large image)

I began my “music career” on the violin in 6th Grade at Niagara Street School. My grandfather, Ernie Woodring, had played violin and it was decided that I should also play that particular instrument. Other than “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I didn’t progress with any kind of proficiency. When I entered junior high school the music teacher decided he needed a cello player rather than another squeaky violin, so cello lessons were begun. I actually became reasonably good at reading music and playing along in the orchestra. That career on the stringed instruments ended when I was graduated from high school because I was using a school loaned instrument and cellos are very expensive.

I had always wanted to play a trumpet and when I asked to take trumpet lessons at Gaskill the music teacher said, “Trumpet players are a dime a dozen. You should play something that will always be needed…… a baritone horn”. I had no idea what a baritone horn was, but being the easily influenced child, I said OK. Once again, the teacher was correct, and I became a baritone player. Then as the years went along, the school band was in need of a tuba player and I was told it was just a larger baritone horn and didn’t I really want to play such a commanding instrument? Of course I said yes, and I became the new tuba/sousaphone instrumentalist. I loved those years in the school bands, especially when I went to (the old) Niagara Falls High School where a new music teacher/bandmaster was hired, Mr. John Hadden. He had experience with and instituted a marching band where we actually performed at half time at football games. Mr. Hadden was a great guy and he and his wife and I became long-time friends.

Here is a photo of the Gaskill Jr. High School band, circa 1955, led by Mr. Howard Shotz. Names I can recall are, first row left, Jim Brunn, baritone horn; back row left, Ernie Dishaw, tuba; standing to the right of Mr. Shotz, Carl Brenner; second row, second from the right, Paul D. Beam, horn. While the names of many others are on the tip of my tongue, memory being a fleeting issue I don’t recall them. I’m sure some of your readers could further identify those in the photo.

Fortunately, the current music programs at our high school have produced some award-winning groups and the city should be proud. We must fight to keep those programs intact and even expanded.

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