Two moments resonate in Bill Katz’s mind that helped instill his lifelong love for music.
The first was as a 15-year-old living in Far Rockaway in 1945, when he stopped at a candy store on his way home one night, and his eyes landed on a magazine called Esquire Jazz Magazine. The magazine included photos of the era’s greatest musicians, including Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Coleman Hawkins. It also included a jazz recording, which Katz played once he arrived home. “I was just smitten by it,” said Katz, who has taught music education for more than 60 years, and 40 at East Meadow High School. “I started buying jazz records.”
The second moment was shortly after he graduated high school in 1948, when his former music teacher took him to Brooklyn Technical High School to watch a live symphony. “He sat me right next to the bassoon player,” said Katz. “And I fell in love with the instrument.”
On Oct. 18, Katz, 83, was honored by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame as its 2012 Music Educator of Note, making him the sixth person to receive the honor since it was instituted in 2007. The award ceremony was held at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington. “It just was beautiful,” Katz said of the evening. “It was over the top.”
Katz has lived in East Meadow since 1963 with his wife of 51 years, Gloria. He began teaching music at East Meadow High School in 1954, and though he retired in 1994, he still teaches a jazz ensemble for the Nassau-Suffolk performing arts organization, which has its weekly meetings at East Meadow High School. Through his 60-plus years of teaching, he has influenced lives of students not only in East Meadow, but across the country.
Early days in music
Having spent his entire childhood engrossed with sports, Katz said he was about 17-years-old when he first started playing musical instruments. But once he started, he never stopped.
Music was in his genes, as his mother, Allice Wormser, was a piano player, and his grandfather, Henry Renard, was a musician. His father, William Katz Sr., on the other hand, was a lawyer.