Bob Green isn’t difficult to spot and is even easier to hear at Ottawa City Band concerts. Thanks to his vast musical knowledge and expert skills on the trombone, his fellow band members agree, Green takes over both duties as the announcer and first trombone for the music group’s performances.
“Bob brings a wealth of experience,” Mark Paquette, Ottawa City Band and middle school band director, said. “He brings expertise in his instrument.”
Green, 70, has been a member of the band for 45 years and is the oldest continuous member. The Ottawa City Band is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. Thursday as part of the Fourth of July festivities in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa. The band’s final performance of the season is Tuesday at City Park, Fifth and Main streets, featuring songs picked by spectators.
Green began playing in the band in 1968 after completing his active duty for the U.S. Army, he said. But his history as a trombone player didn’t begin there.
A MAN OF MANY BANDS
Green first began taking individual trombone lessons the summer before fifth grade in Concordia from Harley Doake, Concordia High School band director, he said.
“He was a very excellent band director,” Green said. “He was a circus band director in the ‘40s.”
Green later went through the high school band program in Concordia before graduating in 1960, he said.
Though he began studying pre-law at Kansas State University, Green did not stray from music. He played in the marching and concert bands, as well as the orchestra at K-State, he said.
“They wanted me to be a music major,” Green said.
Green also played with the Isis Shrine Band in Salina, the same band with which his father played sousaphone, in about 1961, he said.
“I played with that band as time allowed,” Green said. “The Isis Temple sponsored band trips, so I got to go to the International Shriners Convention in Seattle and Denver. That was an interesting band because you got to play with a lot of different musicians.”
After graduating from K-State in 1964, he entered the University of Kansas Law School. It was only a short time after his graduation from KU in 1967 that he was drafted by the Army during the Vietnam War, he said. Shortly after, he joined the 89th Division Band, which was being formed at his station in Fort Sill, Okla., he said.
“Since it was the height of the draft, a lot of us musicians thought that it would be a good way to fulfill our military duties,” Green said. “The musicians in the 89th Division Band were recruited by word of mouth. There were some very talented musicians, and then there were some that were terrible. They were just there to escape the draft.”
The 89th Division Band, along with one other full-time band at Fort Sill, played at graduations for foreign officers every week, as well as at other military events, Green said.
“There were so many graduations going on we had to have two bands,” Green said.
Green was released from active duty in April 1968. He then moved to Ottawa to practice law and began playing in the Ottawa City Band in summer 1968. Today, he still works in law in Ottawa at Green, Finch and Covington Chartered Attorneys, 101 W. Second St.
Green has played in a multitude of bands during his many years as a trombone player. From 1968 to 1976, he played in the Dick Wright Orchestra in Lawrence and traveled playing shows all over the state. In the 1980s, he played in the Jazz House Big Band led by Clyde Bysom in Lawerence.
“Clyde is famous in Lawrence,” Green said. “He is now 93 and still plays clarinet and trumpet every week. He has played in the Lawrence City Band for 51 years. He is my hero as far as longevity goes.”
Another Lawrence band also found its way into Green’s career. Junkyard Jazz meets and plays every Thursday night at the Lawrence American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth St., Lawrence.
“They play entirely by ear,” Green said. “People would come, have a drink, dance and listen to the music.”
Apart from the scores of bands with which he’s been associated, Green also has been involved with playing at the First United Methodist Church, 203 E. Fourth St., Ottawa, he said. The Ottawa City Band is the only band with which Green still participates regularly.
Green loves playing music; otherwise he wouldn’t have played for so long, he said.
“I love the effect music has on people,” Green said. “The feelings music can create in people is why I continue to do it.”
It isn’t just the music that has highlighted his career, he said. Green has had a direct effect on his fellow band members. Anna Pruitt, who will be a sophomore at Ottawa High School in the fall, said she has learned a lot playing in the trombone section with Green in the Ottawa City Band.
“I usually play third trombone, but I got to play first trombone with Bob at Jayhawker Days,” Pruitt said. “He talks to me a lot more now and it is nice when he gives out tips, like if I need to change my position here or if I need to be a bit sharper there. He is so good at playing.”
“He helps a lot of those kids in the band just by being able to play as well as he does,” Paquette said.
Steve Baker, who also plays trombone in the Ottawa City Band, said Green is as top notch as they get.
“I’ve known Bob since I’ve been in town since 1983,” Baker said. “Everybody looks up to him. He is a real nice anchor, and he brings a lot of leadership (to the band).”
Two things stick out in Green’s mind when asked about his favorite part of playing.
“The best thing about it is the reaction of the audience to the music,” Green said. “People react to music more than any other art form. The next fun thing is the musicians you make friends with.”
Green has seen a lot of members come and go from the Ottawa City Band, which was first formed in 1913 from the historic Gormly Band in Ottawa. He said at times the band is larger in numbers. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Green’s determination to keep playing.
“I love playing and you have to keep playing to remain proficient,” Green said. “You can’t just set an instrument down for four years and then pick it up.”
Green, who also has announced the songs for the band for about the past five years, said he has no plans of quitting anytime soon.
“I’ll keep doing it as long as I can keep up and play well,” Green said.