When I was in high school, Robert Alan Gable, our assistant band director was fresh out of college and ready to rock and roll. After he finished teaching during the day, he played jazz at a night club until the wee hours. He taught saxophone, bassoon, oboe, flute, and percussion, but at the club it was sax and flute. The year I graduated, he joined Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders and we lost touch.
High school was not a particularly happy time for me, which is probably true for more teenagers than not. How did Alice Cooper put it in the song I’m Eighteen?
“Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about.
Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt.”
Bob taught me how to play tenor saxophone and bassoon, but more importantly, how to truly love music. He was a teacher and a mentor who provided encouragement that eventually grew into confidence.
Last year he was inducted into my high school’s Music Hall of Fame, and I had a chance to see him for the first time since high school; we picked up as though the hiatus had been days instead of decades. Bob’s health had failed him, which tied him to an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, and he had retired. Tom Batiuk the cartoonist graciously did a drawing of Harry Dinkle (the World’s Greatest Band Director) for the occasion. (If you don’t follow his comic strip “Funky Winkerbean,” you should.) After that Bob and I chatted on the phone every so often. We never had anything significant to talk about, but it was time shared.
The last time I called I got a recording that his number was no longer accepting calls. I expected the worst. Today I received an email with his obituary.
The journey through life is short, but we all leave footprints that mark our journey. Many of us who walked with him for part of his journey are better for it. Thanks, Bob.