By Renee Muniz
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The Jazz Ensemble came together Nov. 17 to remember the life of Dr. Bob Connelly, who died Sept. 27 after serving the UIW community for 45 years, including the music department.
The ensemble presented a night of musical memories of Connelly in the Concert Hall of Luella Bennack Music Center.
Several songs were performed during the concert, including classics such as “Misty” and “Georgia On My Mind.”
However, the tune that touched the audience most was director Jim Waller’s “A Ballad for Bob.”
Haden Lumley, a new member of the ensemble, said the concert was one of the most heartfelt performances she has been part of in a long time.
In 2009, Waller and the ensemble were invited to Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. After conducting multiple fundraisers to make the trip possible, the group still fell short of the cost and it was difficult to find donations anywhere since it was the year after the 2008 economy crash.
Connelly knew a travel agent in Switzerland who could provide affordable airfare accommodations for Waller and his group, thus allowing them to attend and perform at Montreux. Connelly and his wife, Dr. Kathleen “Kathi” Light, now provost at UIW, also attended the festival.
Throughout the chaos of organizing the trip to Montreux, Waller began to learn more about Connelly and his personality.
“He was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known,” Waller said. “He was an amazing person, and I know some of you here knew him and feel exactly the same way.”
Audience member Andrea Cyterski, associate dean of admissions for the School of Osteopathic Medicine, said she came to the concert to pay homage to Connelly and Light.
“Dr. Connelly and his wife, Kathi Light, are staples of the University, and so it was just appropriate that we were here,” Cyterski said.
Music Department Chair William Gokelman said Connelly was his philosophy teacher during his freshman year of college. Six years later Gokelman became a teacher at UIW and one of his first tasks was to form a Sunday choir. Two of those choir members included Connelly and Light.
While speaking on stage, Gokelman pointed out the tie he was wearing was actually a tie Connelly took off and gave to Gokelman after he had commented on how beautiful it was.
“This is the tie I have on tonight,” Gokelman said. “It’s my ‘Bob Connelly memorial tie.’ He was one of the most caring and gentle and generous people that I’ve known my entire life. He really cared about everything and every person and about the planet. We’re all better here for having known him, and for getting to know Kathi, having her here is a wonderful blessing.”