In Memoriam by William Ciabattari
Remembering Ron Bishop
I was saddened to hear of the passing of my teacher, Ron Bishop, late last summer. I had visited with him the weekend after July 4th, and we had a wonderful time talking about television, golf, music, life, and death. We talked specifically about NEOTuba, our tuba quartet, and the recital we were planning to do in the fall. I think it was clear that he was not going to play with us; nonetheless we spoke in optimistic terms. We stayed up pretty late, but Mrs. Bishop eventually shut the party down so Mr. Bishop could rest. We woke up the next morning and enjoyed breakfast together and chatted some more. When it was time for me to leave, we said our goodbyes. We hugged each other for a long time. It was a hug that still burns in my mind because I remember it as the first moment I thought, “this might be the last time I would ever see him.” It was.
Neotuba. Caption: NEOTUBA. L-R J.C. Sherman, Ron Bishop, Bill Ciabattari, Travis Scott
Since his passing I have thought a lot about Mr. Bishop and his impact on those around him, particularly students like me. Ron Bishop was a terrific role model both as a musician and as a human being. He was an outstanding tubist, a true professional in every way. He had high expectations for himself and for his students. He was respectful of everyone he worked with and was fully invested when collaborating with other musicians. He would give just as much to his Chagrin Falls “Octoot” under the gazebo as he would to a performance of Mahler’s 6th at Severance Hall. He was comfortable speaking or performing in front of anyone. I have watched him captivate a bunch of 6 year old children while explaining patterns in music as well as seasoned audiences hungry to know about the next piece being performed in a recital. He was also honest, loyal, and humble. I have had many conversations with people who knew Ron Bishop. Those close to him called him an outstanding musician, a true gentleman, a loyal friend, a man with a sense of humor, a joy to be around, a generous soul, and a great colleague. And I agree with all of that. I think the remarkable thing is that he did not earn this respect by seeking it. He simply lived his life with respect for art and humanity, and in so doing, he racked up a long list of admirers and friends, among which I am honored to count myself.
In my last lesson with Mr. Bishop as a college student, I thanked him for investing in me because I did learn a lot. We conversed about the audition/interview process and he reminded me that there is a lot in the process that is out of my control and that I should focus on what I could control, that is my preparation, and not to worry about the outcome. In an insecure moment, I remember confessing to him that I was afraid of letting him down. His response to me was simple and powerful, and it changed my life. He said, “There is only one thing I want for you and that is that you have a happy life.” In that moment I realized that I had been confining my idea of Ron Bishop into a great musical box. The reality was that he was much bigger than that. He was more than a teacher to me. He was a friend, one who I now miss very much.
I realize that there are many folks in our ITEA world who have great memories of Ron Bishop that are worthy of being shared with all of us. I invite you to share your stories, ideas, and recollections of Ron Bishop on his Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/ronald.bishop.1232?fref=ts).