Roy Ayers once said, “The real beauty of music is that it connects people.” Musicians and community members from across the region, and even across the country, came together to show it off.
The friends of Bill Knight, a beloved and talented local music teacher, have come together to raise money for a new disabled-accessible van. Knight needs a new van to get to his doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and other essentials. The group, comprising Gary Kindberg, Marc and Stephanie Lentsch, Norm and Mindi Lydell, Chad and Meghan Murray and Matt and Gina Wakefield, set up a Gofundme account to raise $ 60,000 to buy Knight a new van that will remain reliable for coming years.
Lydell, former director of Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir and conductor, said he made his musical debut in brass with the help of Knight. He said Knight has been teaching music, especially brass, for 50 years.
“Bill was a music teacher like me, a conductor at Lincoln Junior High in the 1970s, and quite early in his career he suffered an accident and could no longer teach in public schools because he was. confined to a wheelchair. “ Lydell said. “While at Heritage Village in Gerry, all these years he met his nurse and they fell in love. Her name is Linda, and she became his primary caregiver and allowed her to live decades beyond what anyone predicted at the time that her lifespan would be.
Linda was a great help to Knight throughout this time and remained his caregiver for 40 years until her passing in 2018.
Ralph Rassmussen, a local musician and teacher, also known as Razz, was another person who was instrumental in Knight’s return to teaching music. “Razz was at Falconer Central School as a group principal and knew Bill, and knew he was struggling,” Lydell said. “Razz went to him and said, ‘I have two jazz bands and they’re meeting at the same time – I’m taking you to Falconer, and you’re going to teach the other jazz band while I teach. the first. ‘So it was Ralph Rassmussen who really brought Bill back to teaching. Falconer’s guardians built a ramp for Bill to stand in front of the group.
“At this point I was a little boy when all of this was happening” Lydell said. “Like many people, I got to know Bill as one of the first private brass students he ever had. After his accident, I went to seventh grade snorkel lessons at Heritage Village in Gerry. I was one of the first All-State Conference players he produced. Conference All-State is as high as it gets as a member of a group in New York State as a high school student. So Bill sent 96 students to Conference All-State.
Lydell said if Knight was a high school football coach the stadiums would have been named after him for all stars “athletes” he taught and supervised.
“I don’t know anyone else that I met in my time who was close to that as a teacher” he said. “He’s really good at what he does. I guess there is something about the one-on-one with the students he has. He makes connections. The way (the students) describe it is that it will tell you what the problem is and it will tell you how to fix it – fix your fingering if it’s wrong, play the wrong note – it’s immediate responsibility.
Lydell said Knight had such an impact on his students and alumni that they came together to help him out when needed. Knight needs a new disabled-accessible van, and various former students, friends and community members have started a Gofundme to raise the $ 60,000 it will cost.
“We have raised over $ 27,000 so far”, Lydell said. “And these are people from all over the country. Once the word got out, people said, “I want to help, I want to help. It’s a very specific goal here. A new van costs about $ 60,000 for a disabled accessible van. They really have to make a lot of changes. So we’ve set a goal of $ 60,000, but we’re just going to push and push as far as we can, and if we get $ 45,000, we’ll do it – we’ll have a used one that’s good, but we’ll replace that. that he has.
Lydell said the hope is to raise awareness of the fund and secure donations, but more importantly to share Knight’s incredible story.
“This is the most important thing I want to make people understand: the donations are wonderful, but please tell the story” he said. “Please pass the story on. It’s a great story and it helped us get support from people who might not know Bill, but they had a special teacher who if they could do anything for this teacher here is your chance. Or if they knew someone in their life, but they couldn’t really have the opportunity to do something like that. Now they’re helping someone like Bill.
Lydell said Knight is quite a private person but is extremely well known in the region’s music community.
“He’s taught almost all of our best brass players over the years,” he said.
Knight said he was incredibly touched by the fundraiser.
“I am surprised and very touched that people donate to this” he said. “It’s very humbling that this group of five couples put this together trying to help me.”
He said he heard about the possibility of a fundraising effort, but didn’t know it would pay off. He said he is “outmoded” through the efforts of these couples and community members who donate.
The Gofundme will be open for donations until October 1. To donate, visit https://ie.gofundme.com/f/bill-knight-van-fund or send a check payable to Bill Knight to Norman Lydell at 3229 Baker Street Extension, Jamestown, NY