89-Year-Old Musician Playing at Concordia's Live Nativity

December 8, 2015

Concordia’s Third Annual Live Nativity is THIS Sunday, Dec. 13 from 4-7 p.m. on the Concordia at Cabot campus! And while there are a bunch of reasons you and your family should check it out, one in particular is to see how involved our incredible residents get with this event. Narrating, building, singing, promoting, handbelling, decorating – they take part in nearly every aspect.

While we’d love to feature them all, below is a story on one resident in particular who lends his musical talent.

Bill playingConcordia resident Bill Champion first began playing the piano when he was 3 or 4 years old and just tall enough to reach the keys. Today, with all the challenges that can come with being a 89-year-old musician, Bill still plays exclusively from memory – no sheet music required. He currently plays hymns for Haven III chapel services and will be playing Christmas songs at 4:30 in the Haven 2 dining room during the Live Nativity

When Bill, originally from Ohio, first started picking out notes and songs on the piano, it became clear that he had perfect pitch: the rare ability to identify and play any musical note just by hearing it. This ability and his love for music led him to immerse himself in studying, teaching and performing music.

Bill attended Bowling Green University to study tuba, but later switched to trombone when he went to the Naval School of Music. While he was in the Navy, he also marched in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funeral procession in 1945. He continued his studies in music and earned a doctorate at the University of Michigan.

Bill met his future wife, Martha, while both were teaching in northwestern Ohio. Martha taught art, and Bill, of course, taught music. The two were married in 1957.

Bill later became a music professor at Buffalo State College and was also a band director, mainly for competition marching bands and concert bands. He retired after about 30 years of teaching.

“Even though he retired, he never really retired,” Martha joked. He formed the Buffalo Swing Band to play in “The Natural,” a film starring Robert Redford that was released in 1984.

“We flew out to Hollywood and stayed on the [RMS] Queen Mary while we recorded the music,” Bill said. He was also in many other ensembles and part of a corporation for dance bands.

“Bill’s first love was swing music,” Martha explained.

In addition to teaching music and playing the piano, tuba, trombone and vibraphone in bands, Bill also used his musical talents in church, where he served as a choirmaster and played the organ.

Bill and Martha moved to Concordia at Cabot in June 2013. After such a long career in so many musical fields, it is remarkable how many songs Bill can still play from memory, including jazz songs, Christmas songs and hymns, among many others.

“I just remember the chords of each song, and it’s easy from there,” Bill said.

Bill first started playing as part of the indoor entertainment at Concordia’s Live Nativity last year. Concordia is blessed to have a number of musicians like Bill who can grace the organization with beautiful music.

The Nativity will be held from 4-7 p.m. in front of Haven II at 148 Marwood Road, Cabot, PA 16023 (click here for Google Maps directions). There will be the outdoor “walk-through” Nativity scene as well as refreshments and live Christmas music indoors. For more information about Concordia’s Live Nativity, call Connor Hagey at 724-352-1571, ext. 8343, visit our Events & News page or message us through the Contact Us form on our website.

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