ROBERT "BOBBY" GREEN – 1927 - 2016

With the passing of Big Sandy native Robert Lee Green, our community, the music world and music education lost a bright star. Known here during his school days as "Bobby," Bob Green was a brilliant natural musician, whether playing trumpet or jazz piano. On a personal note, in our youth when he was visiting from his adopted state of California, Bob would generously teach my cousin Lowell Svennungsen and me some of his inventive licks on the piano. "Honeysuckle Rose" was a favorite.

Robert Green was born June 13, 1927 to Robert and Alice (Rose) Lee Green. His parents and older sister Betty Jean preceded him in death. He inherited his musical gift from his mother, whose piano playing, singing and organ playing for the Catholic Church were legendary in Big Sandy, from World War One to the early 1970s. In his schooldays, Bobby Green's playing stood out during concerts and at annual Havre Music Festival weekends. His sister Betty was in our band when it played for the King and Queen of England during their historic pre-World War II visit to Canada in 1939. Bob took his ear for perfect pitch to the University of Southern California – to study Engineering, not music. But his love and talent for music led him to convince his parents he should switch majors. They reluctantly agreed, even though they felt the life of a musician might not be practical. Overall, Bob got his master's degree at the University of Montana, became a doctoral candidate at USC. Following World War II, he was summoned by the draft. Because his father had been a marine in World War I, Bob chose to proudly serve in the Marine Corps,where his musicianship worked in well as he played for many service events, dances and parties, including spending a year with the occupation forces in Japan. He returned to the States, was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, and there met his future wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Hartmann. During their over 50 years of marriage, the couple had five children who in turn had 13 children followed by 13 grandchildren.

Bob taught briefly at Browning, in Yakima, and then spent the remaining of his 42 years as a teacher guiding the music program at Covina High School in Covina, California. His bands and orchestras excelled through discipline and practice-practice-practice, resulting in trips around the country and to Mexico, Europe, and Hawaii. He was chosen to conduct the American Youth Symphony and Chorus on tours to European countries, where he said he'd be taking "a piece of Americana to the cities" they'd visit. Bob also composed and arranged many musical works, but most of all his impact came with the influence he had as a teacher for so many young students. That inspiration will live on for generations.

In their eulogies, his children recalled Bob's sense of humor, his story-telling talent, his love of bowling up to his 87th year even with failing eyesight (he called himself "The Blind Bowler"), and his devotion to family and friends. Over twenty years ago, Bob's sight began to fail, but it did not diminish his playing or his philosophy of "Live, Laugh and Love." Fortunately in later years, he recorded on piano several cds of great American standard songs, and later this year the Big Sandy Cultural Fund plans to celebrate Bobby Green by presenting his life in a tribute concert to honor him, his mother and other Big Sandy musical talents.

In summing up his first-chair time on earth, Bob said his advice was, "Don't take advantage of others." A student said she'd learned that "music makes the world go round and makes life much sweeter." His personal legacy in his own words: "I'd like people to know and understand that I was considerate, thoughtful loving and caring."

Robert Lee Green died on December 11, 2016 in Henderson, Nevada. The memorial service was held January 5, 2017 in Las Vegas with burial at the Veteran's Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada. In this writer's view of his long-time inspirational friend, there will always be not only "Taps," but a jazz band procession down Main Street.