‘Music is worthwhile’: Donn Weaver, who proved that for decades, to accept Orville Rummel Trophy at tonight’s Concert in the Park

July 14, 2015 1:04 pm
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 |   West Seattle Grand Parade | West Seattle news | West Seattle people

(At right in our video, Donn Weaver directing the WS Big Band at 2013’s Concert in the Park)

By Randall Hauk
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.” – President Obama

When Donn Weaver, the 2015 recipient of the Orville Rummel Trophy for Outstanding Service to the Community, received as a seventh grader the gift of a trumpet from his older brother, he certainly could never have imagined he would someday be honored for sharing his love of music with the West Seattle community.

Yet, honored shall he be, at tonight’s Hi-Yu Concert in the Park featuring the West Seattle Big Band, an organization for which Weaver served as director from its inception in 1996 until stepping down this past winter, and then he’ll carry the trophy in this Saturday’s West Seattle Grand Parade, whose committee chooses the honoree.

The band initially was formed as a collection of a “baker’s dozen” of band alumni brought together to play at a West Seattle High School reunion.

“They asked for a band to play, so we contacted as many former members as we could. We had a rehearsal and played the reunion,” recalls Weaver. “At the end of the reunion, they got together in a huddle in the lunchroom and they told me they decided they wanted to have the band keep going. So I thought, “Well, we’ll just make it into a swing band,” and it’s been going ever since.”

The all-volunteer band quickly grew into the 18-piece unit that has been entertaining crowds throughout West Seattle ever since, while also raising thousands of dollars for the music programs of local public schools.

Born in Onalaska in southwest Washington, Weaver first arrived in Seattle to attend the University of Washington. where he earned his BA in music education in 1954. His career eventually brought him to West Seattle High School, where he taught from 1966 until 1978.

When Weaver first started at WSHS, there were just eleven students in the band. By the time Weaver moved on to new challenges, taking him to Franklin, Rainier Beach, and Ingraham high schools, the program was flourishing with more than 80 members.

“It was phenomenal how it blossomed,” says Weaver, downplaying his own role in helping build the school’s program. “High-school kids love a challenge.”

One person who does not underestimate Weaver’s contributions to not only the WSHS program, but also to the community at large, is former student Jim Edwards, who worked closely with Weaver in the West Seattle Big Band before succeeding his mentor as its director (he’s also a Rummel Trophy recipient, with wife Barbara Edwards, in 1998).

“Donn’s years at West Seattle High School, while a paid position, are not representative of your normal band director,” says Edwards. “He had a record of building strong programs wherever he taught. In 1978, his last year at West Seattle, his combined instrumental performing groups had a total of 72 performances out of a 180-day school year.”

It was Edwards, a member of the West Seattle Parade Committee and longtime co-coordinator of the parade, who nominated Weaver for the Orville Rummel Trophy before recusing himself from the decision-making process due to the long-term personal ties between the two men that has spanned several decades.

“When I first knew Jim, he was in elementary school and in the summer music program,” says Weaver. “I used to get a kick out of him because the trombone he played was bigger than he was!”

While there may be no more-fitting testimony to Weaver’s legacy than to have a former student nominate him for a prestigious community award while also continuing his work with the Big Band, Weaver always defers to the power of the music to move young and old alike, as seen repeatedly at his many performances.

“Music is worthwhile,” says Weaver. “If someone asked me to prove it was worthwhile, I wouldn’t know what to tell them, but I have seen it.”

You can applaud Donn Weaver for his decades of community service at tonight’s Concert in the Park – again, 7 pm, east lawn of Hiawatha (2700 California SW, but the concert’s on the Walnut side), free! – and when he rides in the West Seattle Grand Parade on Saturday, starting 11 am from California/Lander and proceeding southbound along California to the south end of The Junction at Edmunds.

ABOUT THE ORVILLE RUMMEL TROPHY: It’s named after the man who founded the parade in 1934, Orville Rummel – lots of background in the story we published the year we were honored with it, in 2010. The award was first presented in 1984. Click ahead for the full list of recipients from 1984 through 2015:

1984: Charles and Ann Gage
1985: RB Chris Crisler Jr.
1986: Morgan and Carol McBride
1987: Margaret Miaullis
1988: Charles Jung
1989: Aurlo Bonney
1990: Katie Thorburn
1991: Dorothy Poplawski
1992: Dan Wiseman
1993: Virgil Sheppard
1994: Dorene Smith
1995: Doris Richards
1996: John Kelly
1997: Dick Kennedy
1998: Jim Edwards and Barbara Edwards
1999: Lt. David E. Cass
2000: Husky Deli/Miller Family
2001: Stephanie Haskins
2002: Forest Lawn
2003: Sue Lindblom
2004: Edgar and Ann Phipps
2005: Karen Sisson
2006: Walt DeLong
2007: David and Doreen Vague
2008: Tim St. Clair
2009: Morey Skaret
2010: West Seattle Blog
2011: Cindi Barker
2012: Shirley Vradenburgh
2013: Judy Pickens
2014: Earl Cruzen
2015: Donn Weaver

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