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Dunedin Community Band to pay tribute to longtime leader

Bill Hawkinson died May 30 of complications after four heart surgeries. He was 73.

Special to the Times

Bill Hawkinson died May 30 of complications after four heart surgeries. He was 73.

DUNEDIN — The Dunedin Community Band's concert Tuesday will be a little different.

In addition to patriotic pieces in honor of Independence Day, the band will play Amazing Grace, followed by a moment of silence.

Then they will strike up 76 Trombones from the musical The Music Man. The band's longtime conductor, Ray Hawkinson, once played the leading role of Harold Hill in a community performance of the play.

After undergoing four heart surgeries since March, Mr. Hawkinson died of complications May 30. He had just turned 73.

Tuesday's concert at the Dunedin Community Center is in tribute to Mr. Hawkinson, a music teacher who conducted the volunteer band for the past eight years.

Mr. Hawkinson was so serious about the band that he tried to postpone his surgeries so he wouldn't miss rehearsals, said Donna Hawkinson, his wife of 20 years.

"I've got to get released because I have a band rehearsal," she said her husband once told a doctor.

The band is made up of all ages and skill levels. And every Tuesday night, it made good music under Mr. Hawkinson's direction, said Louis Alan Zagar, who will conduct half of Tuesday's concert.

"He was very upbeat, never afraid to try anything challenging," Zagar said. "He pushed the band to play music you wouldn't think they would be able to play."

Mr. Hawkinson was born in Canada and moved to Wisconsin when he was 16. The first time he heard music, he knew he wanted an instrument, his wife said. He got a clarinet in junior high and couldn't wait to go home to practice.

His other passion was building and flying radio controlled model airplanes.

Mr. Hawkinson taught music at Clearwater Central Catholic High School for 11 years until the early 90s, his wife said. Most recently, he was teaching at St. Patrick Catholic School in Largo.

But the teaching didn't end when he left school. One member of the community band told Donna Hawkinson that her husband "doesn't just stand there and wave the stick. He teaches."

Jim Fozard, the band's assistant director, who will conduct the other half of Tuesday's concert, said he'll remember Mr. Hawkinson for his enthusiasm in helping amateur musicians and students enjoy preforming music.

Mr. Hawkinson rarely spoke about himself, Fozard said. Once, over a few beers, Fozard got Mr. Hawkinson to open up a bit. That's when he learned Mr. Hawkinson once played the part of Harold Hill.

"He suddenly broke into a spirited rendition of Harold Hill's monologue," Fozard said. " 'You've got trouble, folks, right here in River City.' "

Music was Mr. Hawkinson's absolute passion, said his wife.

"Anything to do with getting ready for a class or a group or a rehearsal, he was perfection," she said. "When it came to taking off his muddy shoes at the door, he was 'eh, okay.' "

Mr. Hawkinson is survived by his wife and two children, Scott Hawkinson of New Jersey and Cynthia McEahern of Wisconsin.

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at tel-khoury@sptimes.com or (727)445-4181.

>>Fast facts

If you go

The free concert is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Dunedin Community Center, 1920 Pinehurst Road.

Dunedin Community Band to pay tribute to longtime leader 06/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 8:44pm]
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