TEACHER GORDON BISCHOFF, right, and student Tim Lyke team up once more. Luckily, no grades were given. Bobbi Hjelmberg photo
TEACHER GORDON BISCHOFF, right, and student Tim Lyke team up once more. Luckily, no grades were given. Bobbi Hjelmberg photo
     Growing up in Ripon in the 1970s, I respected, revered and (a little bit) feared two men who still live in our city: Gordon Bischoff and Dave Schanke. They were my middle school and high school band directors, respectively.

     Every week from sixth to 12 grades, I paid a one-on-one visit with these fellows for a trombone lesson. (Come to think of it, given my assault on their ears, they probably feared me, too.)
 
     I still play trombone today ... I am indebted to Mr. Bischoff for getting me started and never giving up on me, even when it seems I had given up on myself.

     He could seem stern. But his guidance, patience and encouragement were unwavering.

     ... I hadn’t seen him for about a year when I spotted him a couple weeks ago while visiting my mom at Prairie Place. Now 89, Mr. Bischoff, was in the assisted living facility’s less-skilled unit, his clarinet case by his side.

     ... I asked him if I could one day play a duet with him... He’d slowly nod his head, indicating the thrill would be mine alone.

     One Wednesday afternoon I was delivering Commonwealths to Prairie Place when I came upon Mr. Bischoff standing in the dining room in front of a music stand... I ran out to my car and grabbed my trombone.

     ... Together, we played part of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

     ... When we were done, I beamed, thanked him and confessed that I was thrilled to play with him.

     He offered a half smile, the sort you’d expect from a man who previously looked resplendent in his spotless, stiffly starched, dress whites with gold epaulets as he marched smartly down Watson Street while leading 80 musicians, each of whom he personally had taught to master their instruments.

     ... My hero had made my day — my week, even.  I hope sometime he’ll realize how much he means to me.

     To read the entire column, see the Sept. 10, 2015 edition of
The Ripon Commonwealth Press.