Grade 4 (5:55)
An Obvious Love
|Gary P. Gilroy|
The Morro Bay High School Band, Brynn Belyea, Conductor, commissioned An Obvious Love in memory of Ken Schmutz. The composer remembers Ken Schmutz (February 13, 1949 – March 29, 2012) as a fine band director, a very kind gentlemen and one of the most supportive colleagues he has known. Ken spent 36 years teaching in public schools, including those in Napa,
Durham, Tehachapi, Atascadero, and most recently - and for many years, in
Paso Robles at Lewis Middle School. In retirement, Ken was offered a
position to teach band to children fourth through eighth grades at Saint
Rose Catholic School. He was still teaching at the time of his death. He died after a long battle with cancer at the age of 63. Of Ken Schmutz, Gary P. Gilroy writes:
Ken Schmutz was a wonderful man and I am very honored to compose this work in his memory. He was one of the most supportive high school band directors when I made the move from teaching at Beyer High School (Modesto, CA) to Fresno State. I’ll never forget how he helped me to believe in myself as a college band director. I probably never told him but he certainly had a very positive impact on my career.
In the midst of composing this work in memory of Mr. Ken Schmutz, Dr. Gilroy asked the commissioning band director, Brynn Belyea, to write some thoughts about his friend and colleague. The composer was inspired and touched by the words of Mr. Belyea and found the title for the work in a particular quote that really spoke to him. So many band directors and their student share an obvious love for music making and for life in general. The best teachers known to this composer are those who are tough on their students and yet, somehow, these students love and respect their conductors and vice versa.
Brynn Belyea wrote the following inspirational thoughts about Mr. Ken Schmutz:
From the time I came out to California and began to get involved with the band events in our county, I always felt like Ken Schmutz and I shared a lot of the same ideas about teaching, which is why we became good friends who could just talk (sometimes gripe) about the state of music education, and other things to do with teaching. Ken's bands always sounded really good. He was really thorough and his students were disciplined. They knew exactly what he expected from him, and even though he was - as kids say sometimes - "strict", there was an obvious love that he showed for them. One could tell he had a great relationship with them.
To me, because Ken had been teaching so much longer than I had (he was 20+ years older than I), I felt like he was a mentor, and someone who I could bounce ideas off of. I hadn't been teaching middle school band for very long, and he seemed to really have it mastered. We went through a period in our friendship where we would meet up every couple of weeks and grab a couple of beers and just chat about life in general, and the conversation would always turn into topics about music. We just had a lot in common and enjoyed hanging out and catching up.
Before Ken passed away, he had a party at his house and invited a bunch of his friends. It was a gathering that just let us know that he appreciated our friendship, and it took place just a little while before his final surgery. I know he didn't think he was going to die, but I have a feeling he had people over to hang out "just in case" something horrible happened. He was optimistic about the surgery, and he even had been exercising and doing lots of walking to prepare his body for the trauma that goes with something like this - the surgery itself, radiation, and all that other stuff. He felt great.
A week or so before he passed, he brought his band from St. Rose to Morro Bay to do a pre-festival performance for my students. (My students loved his kids and were so impressed with how they played. They welcomed them and acted like their big brothers and sisters - they were so supportive, and I remember how much Ken and the parents who were traveling with the St. Rose kids really appreciated that.) Knowing Ken was going to be out a while, I asked if there was anything I could do to help out up at St. Rose while he was gone...he just said, "No, it's covered, and I'll be back soon." His death was so sudden and unexpected - he had already been through 3 other surgeries, and was feeling like this one was just par for the course...no big deal. I never really found out what happened, but it sounded like the surgery went well, and that he had some complications following that ended up making him go down hill really fast. I was so sad to hear that he had passed, and am tearing up writing this - I really miss him - as a friend, as a colleague, and just as a great human being that was a great father, musician, teacher, mentor...I can't believe he is gone.
One of my first reactions was "we need to have a piece written in Ken's memory". He contributed so much to thousands of young musicians' lives. There should be a musical tribute to him. So thank you, Gary, for being willing to do this. I am so grateful to you - for your generosity, talent, time, and understanding about what we are trying to do with the musical part of things. It's really fitting that you are writing it, and I know his son and the kids who learned from him will be as honored as I feel to be a part of it.