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23rd USMA Band Alumni Weekend
USMA Band Change of Command
Retirements and Promotions
In Memoriam - COL William H. Schempf
The Band Alumni Weekend was a great success! We were so busy, I practically had to take a day off work after the weekend! Thanks a million to everyone who had a hand in the planning for the weekend.
This year's reunion coincided with two historic events in the history of the USMA Band - the changing of the command of the Band, and the recent passing of the beloved Teacher of Music, COL William H. Schempf. Each of those events will be covered elsewhere in the newsletter, so this article will stick to the planned events of the alumni weekend.
On Saturday morning, members gathered in the first floor of the Band Building for the annual business meeting of the alumni association. Before the meeting started, alumni members filtered in and greeted one another, renewing old acquaintances. One of the great products of the weekend, which started right here, was not only seeing familiar faces, but being introduced to many new friends. The generations of the USMA Band overlap at every generation, and each member is a bridge to connect other members who might not have met before.
After Bob Moon called the meeting to order, he greeted the Band's new commander, LTC Tom Rotondi, who spoke briefly to the members. LTC Rotondi is not an unfamiliar face, having served as the Band's executive officer several years ago.
One of the new items discussed at the meeting was the prospect of creating a web site for the USMA Band Retiree/Alumni Association. The association members who were present approved the creation of such a site. The web site will allow us to display many photos, both new and old, as well as posting the newsletter and band history information. You'll be hearing more about this later in the year.
After the meeting was adjourned, we all headed up to the 3rd floor rehearsal hall, where alumni members joined the active Band in preparation for Sunday evening's concert. I found myself moving back and forth between the Concert Band and Hellcats rehearsal and the Jazz Knights room, to hear what was cooking with all the guest conductors, soloists, and combined ensembles.
Saturday evening brought the banquet, at Bear Mountain Inn. It was a very nice evening, from the cocktail hour to the main event, with great food and a beautiful setting. Music was provided by the combo of current Jazz Knights, supplemented by alumni soloists who sat in from time to time. The door prizes that were awarded after dinner added a little excitement. Thanks to everyone who donated the beautiful prizes!
Most of all, the evening was a great time to visit with new and old friends. My wife and I had a great time at our table with Bruce Corley, Jr., and his wife Jill, Max and Flo Bayse, and Kathy Wenner and her son Richard. Of course, we also took the opportunity to circulate the room before and after dinner, visiting with many other old and new friends.
Special thanks for the evening go to Ken & Molly MacLeod for making all the arrangements, so that we were all able to enjoy such a great evening.
Sunday afternoon brought the Hudson River boat ride. Unfortunately, I had a prior commitment, so I can't give a first-hand report. According to Bob Moon's report in "Bits & Bytes," the river breeze helped to moderate the heat in the area, and the trip north to Bannerman's Island, across from Cornwall, provided great views of West Point and the Trophy Point amphitheater.
Sunday evening was the main event, the Reunion Concert. There were many fine performances, beginning with the Jazz Knights, including alumni guests. Under the leadership of CW2 Otha Hester, the band gave its usual stellar performance. Among the featured soloists were alumns Woody Dotson on flugelhorn, Bud Berlingeri on tenor sax, and Rick Barnes, whose electric bass solo was accompanied by himself - on vocals!
Next came the Hellcats program, with alumnus Tony Mitzel "standing in" on bugle. Of course, the Hellcats also joined with the Concert Band for several selections.
Finally, under the direction of LTC Thomas Rotundi, the Concert band, joined by alumni members, soloists, and guest conductors, completed the evening's program. There were many highlights, including the appearance of former commanders LTC Ronald McCown and LTC David Deitrick on the conducting stand. Another guest conductor was Dennis Zeisler, who led perfomance of the "Rondo" from Mozart's Concerto, K. 622, featuring clarinet soloist Edwin Riley.
Malcolm McNab performed in two very distinct solo roles. First, he played the famous Herbert L. Clarke solo, Stars in a Velvety Sky, a perfect selection for a trumpet virtuoso. Malcolm returned later in the program to perform a solo bagpipe tribute to Colonel Schempf, featuring Amazing Grace and The Army Song. It was a moving and fitting tribute. Mrs. Marjorie Schempf and her children were in attendance at the concert, and Colonel Schempf's memory was remembered by a standing ovation, spontaneously led by former band members, at the conclusion of Malcolm's performance.
Another great alumni feature was provided by a trio of trumpeters, Larry Morse, John Baker, and Larry Johansen, in the popular Leroy Anderson work, Bugler's Holiday.
Add in the performance of many alumni who sat in with the three performing groups, and the enthusiastic welcome by the current band members, and it was a great conclusion to a fine weekend.
We're all looking forward to next year's reunion, and for that matter, to 2004, which will be the 25th reunion!
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On Sunday evening, June 16, the USMA Band began its summer concert series, "Music Under the Stars." But this was not just any concert. It was also the occasion for the change in the command of the band, as well as the celebration of the Army's birthday.
LTC David Deitrick, who had commanded the band so ably the last several years, would head toward retirement with one last concert, before handing over his baton to the incoming commander, LTC Thomas Rotondi.
Prior to the beginning of the main concert, the band, under the baton of Deputy Commander, CPT Tod A. Addison, saluted the birthday of the U.S. Army, in a ceremony reenacting the many battle streamers that were awarded to the Army in the more than two centuries since the American Revolution.
LTC Deitrick conducted the first portion of the concert, with such selections as John Philip Sousa's march The Gallant Seventh and Celebration, by SSG Douglas Richard. MSG Bill Treat was piccolo soloist on Kinloch of Kinloch, by J. Occa. LTC Deitrick concluded his portion of the program with a set of WWII-era, Andrews Sister's style performances, featuring SFC Julie Ditzel, SSG Lois Hicks-Wozniak and SSG MaryKay Messenger.
At this point, audience witnessed the ceremony signifying the change of command. SGM Kelvin Hill, the Drum Major of the Band, passed the baton to Band Sergeant Major John Sartoris. The baton was then passed to LTC Deitrick, who passed it to USMA Superintendent LTG William J. Lenox, who passed the baton to the new commander, LTC Rotondi. LTG Lenox then spoke to the audience about the history of the band, and the significance of the ceremony that had taken the place.
The ceremony concluded, the new commander took to the stand, leading the band in the performance of the remainder of the concert.
LTC Deitrick has been a great friend of the Alumni and Retiree Association, and we wish him well in his retirement. We'll all be looking forward to his returning as an alumni member for many years to come.
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A constant aspect of the USMA Band is the change that is brought about by retirements and promotions. In addition to the retirement of the Band's commander, LTC David Deitrick, this summer and the coming months will see the retirement of several other career members of the USMA Band:
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Thanks to everyone who sent me nice messages after the last newsletter. I heard from many of my contemporaries, like Gary Bracken, Lionel Brookens, Joe Giordano, Otto Krumpholc and Dave Horne. I received a very nice note from Phil Uhlman, who recalled several members and their children, all grown up now!
I also got some wonderful notes and messages from alumni association members who were before my time in the band, such as Will "Queen Mum" Conklin, Lou Hurvitz, and Don & Louise Stewart. Thanks for all your kind words.
I look forward to hearing all the latest news from everyone, so I can pass it on in the next newsletter!
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Dr. William Heaton Schempf, Colonel, USAR (retired), of Cornwall, New York, the thirteenth Teacher of Music, Commander and conductor emeritus of the USMA Band at West Point, passed away on Saturday, June 8, 2002 in Peekskill following a long illness.
That simple sentence, published in the Middletown, NY, Times-Herald Record, began the official announcement of the passing of one of the USMA Band's most noted, and best loved leaders.
While I served only after Col. Schempf's retirement, I had the pleasure of getting to know him as a friend over the last several years. He often joined us at the Cornwall United Methodist Church for a Sunday morning Bible study, before rushing back to the Cornwall Presbyterian Church, where he was an active leader in the many activities of that church. He was always cheerful, and ready to enter into lively conversation, on just about any topic.
Reading his obituary, one is amazed at the wide variety of experiences and talents he exhibited throughout his life. He served his nation as a meteorology forecaster during WWII, he had degrees in music from Wisconsin and the Eastman School of Music, as well as a minor in mathematics. He was a Fullbright Scholar, and he studied conducting under such luminaries as Serge Koussevitzky, George Szell, and Eugene Ormandy. He was an educator, having held faculty and chairman positions with Lehigh University and Central Michigan University. He also had many special interests, including photography and sailing.
But of course, we remember him for his years at West Point, as Teacher of Music, conductor of the USMA Band, and leader of the Glee Club.
Colonel Schempf was remembered in two beautiful services on the weekend of the Band's alumni reunion. On Friday, June 21, a ceremony at the Old Cadet Chapel included musical performances by organist, Dr. John A Davis and vocal soloist Claudia Cummings. There were two touching remembrances, one from former Glee Club member Walter Good, and another from COL Bryan Schempf, who shared many wonderful aspects of his father's life.
At the conclusion of the service, a procession was made to the gravesite, where honors were rendered, and the USMA Band played its traditional ceremonial role, this time for one of its own. As a special honor, the Band played one of COL Schempf's favorite selections, Percy Grainger's Colonial Song.
On Saturday, June 22, Bill Schempf was remembered by family and friends in a service at the Cornwall Presbyterian Church. There was a great deal of beautiful music, including the handbell choir, directed by Marjorie Schempf, a Mozart clarinet quintet featuring Kevin Schempf on c larinet, and an Oliver Messian selection featuring Emily Faxon, violinist, and Ruthanne Schempf, pianist.
Ruthanne also gave a lighthearted remembrance of her father, which brought several laughs to those in attendance.
We have received several messages containing remembrances of Col. Schempf, which we would like to share:
Regarding our late beloved Col. Schempf, he was one in a million, as we all know, always there for his "Band Family."
Although we have had many great leaders, the arrival of Col. Schempf was like a breath of fresh air to everyone in the Band. I'm sure that many of the Band family have had an experience when the Colonel was there for them.
I remember when Col. Schempf first arrived at West Point. One of the Bruce Corley's children had fallen out of the upstairs bedroom window, and the Col. was right there for Bruce and his family.
He respected his rank in the Army, but when it came to his Band family, and what he could do to help, there was no rank. I remember Cal telling about when the Band moved from the old band building to where they are now. The Col. was out in the parking area ready to drive a truck load over to Building 685. Cal told him in a nice way that he wasn't supposed to be doing it, but he did it anyway. When Cal was elected first president of the retiree/alumni association, the Col. was right there with names and addresses so that we could send out recruiting letters.
Another time, when Tom & Nancy Dick had their heart problems, the Col. called me to find out what they could eat…and the next day Tom & Nancy had a complete chicken dinner, prepared by "Chef Col Bill Schempf."
Before Cal went into the hospital, and wasn't feeling up to par, the Col. called to say he was coming to visit, and what could he bring? I told him "Just yourself," but he shows up with ice cream anyway.
There have been many instances in Cal's and my life where the Col. has been there. We have always been ever grateful. When Cal was in the hospital, the Col. always came to visit him, if Cal could have come home, the Col always said he would have a hospital bed for him, but of course he didn't make it home.
He has left quite a void down here, but the "Long Blue Line" up above have welcomed him -- he is one of them now.
I'm sure that many of the Band people have their own stories about his goodness - the "Good Samaritan."
So, with a lot of fond & precious memories, we bid a loving farewell to our "Beloved Col. Schempf."
Editor's note: At the alumni banquet, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bruce Corley, Jr., who was the above-mentioned child who had fallen out of the window. He told the story to us first-hand!
What a special person he was, a most giving and generous man. As much as I hate to say this, even though many of our commanders of the Band have been liked, Bill was, and is the most popular. He was just so special, and I'm sure many can reminisce and laugh at things through the years that involved him. In our case it was always due to Xmas. I send my cards out early, & the Col. would always joke that if he received our card, he knew he better get out his camera to take the Xmas family picture. Over something so simple we had great laughs.
The car: Always the old car. … I remember the old Volvo when he came back. It must have been close to 20 years old. We had a white one like that when I was in Junior High School. That one was only a few years old when we bought it. My brother bought one like it when he got his first car. It was really old then, but that was in 1974. ... I only remember that one, and the current one, described below.
I could tell COL Schempf without even seeing him. Very few cars like he had are still on the road. It was large, I think a Grand Marquis, from the early to mid 80's. … As he got older, he got a little shorter behind the wheel. Because of this, I could confirm it was him, even before I could make out his face. When I did, I always got a friendly smile and a wave. That was his way. (This to a guy, who never had the pleasure of serving in the band with him.)
When I was at Minisceongo Yacht Club, he kept his 30' Allied Sea wind Ketch there, bringing it back from Michigan through the NY state canal system several years back. He kept it at West Point years ago, and was out sailing when the tidal wave sank the marina at north dock.
I remember helping him take the masts down, going up in the air on the travel lift mast crane to disconnect the triadic stay… At Derek Brinkman's suggestion, we didn't take the masts down often.… I remember the last time I saw the boat sail…
I remember a time in the City, near Carnegie Hall, I was walking down the street and a honking taxi cab driver was upset because someone appeared stalled on the street. Closer examination revealed Major Schempf sitting in his VW, looking at a musical score and quietly conducting as if he were on the podium.
I will always remember him taking the time to visit me in the USMA hospital for a brief surgical procedure and presenting me with an E6 patch/Promotion…I really cared for the man.
I want to offer my sincere sympathies to you on the loss of one of the more illustrious band directors--Dr. William Schempf who I see passed away last Saturday. I knew he was important but had no idea that he had compiled such an impressive record. Something sad to add to your compendium encyclopedia, I'm afraid.
Bob, thank you. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but so thankful that you have passed the word. He was pretty special as a person, as a musician, and within the framework of his own brand of leadership. I admired him greatly and like many, just thought we would always have him with us, I guess. Thank you for informing me of this unfortunate loss to the USMA Band family.
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